In 2019, New Mexico ranked third on a list of states with the most crashes and fatalities in the United States. Within the state, Interstate 40 was listed as having the highest crash rate, averaging 34 crashes annually. (To learn more about the busiest interstates in New Mexico, see our earlier blog post here.) These are staggering facts, and we as Santa Fe, NM car accident lawyers at Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm want to do all we can to help lower New Mexico’s standing on lists of accidents and fatalities. One of the problems leading to these numbers is the condition of our state’s roads and highways.
Research on the quality of New Mexico’s roads published in March 2021 showed disheartening statistics. One fact that became evident through investigation was the inadequate condition of our state’s motorways. In the state of New Mexico, over half of all major locally and state-maintained roads are in conditions ranked “poor” to “mediocre,” meaning that these thoroughfares are more likely to cause crashes, congested traffic patterns, and costly structural damage to personal vehicles. Safe, well-maintained, and intelligently-planned roads are needed to provide for New Mexico’s citizens, many of whom travel or commute daily as part of their job.
While we can all look forward to continuing improvements in legislation supporting roadway reform, it’s helpful now to know which interstates, highways, and streets pose the greatest risk to drivers. If you have questions or have been injured in an accident, contact our office of Santa Fe, NM car accident lawyers for more information.
Let’s take a look at the most dangerous areas for drivers in the state, and then at a few of the high-traffic roads in the city of Santa Fe. Remember, most car accidents are preventable. Attentive, responsive driving with high awareness of your surroundings is one of the best ways to prevent crashes from happening.
- Interstate-40. As we have already seen, based on crash statistics, I-40 could well be termed one of the most dangerous roads in New Mexico. This highway daily hosts a hefty number of tractor trailers, out-of-state travelers, and commuters, particularly surrounding the Albuquerque metropolitan area.
- Interstate-25. Traveling through Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, and the “Big I” interchange where 300,000 vehicles can pass each day, New Mexico’s longest interstate highway sees more cars than any other. Heavy traffic and frequent merging can lead to dangers for drivers.
- Interstate-10. Those traveling I-10 can expect to encounter speeding and reckless drivers, a profusion of large commercial trucks, and harsh winds. And due to a location relatively isolated from cities which can dispatch emergency vehicles, vehicles stranded or involved in car accidents may not be able to receive the aid they need in a timely manner.
State and U.S. Highways
- S. 550. Christened with a slew of theatrical nicknames like “The Death Highway,” “The Highway to Hell,” and “The Killing Zone,” it is not surprising that this road ranks second only to I-40 in fatalities in New Mexico. Northwest of Bernalillo, a combination of narrow medians without barriers, excessively high speed limits, and a frequency of drunk driving has led to too many needless fatalities. The northernmost segment of the highway which crosses the Colorado border becomes the “The Million Dollar Highway” between Ouray and Silverton, CO. This northern stretch has its own surfeit of dangers, and is consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous roads in the nation and even the world. Drivers in New Mexico heading north into Colorado can anticipate rain and flooding, rockslides, avalanches, waterfalls, a lack of guardrails, narrow shoulders bordering steep cliffs, winding curves, hairpin turns, and sheer drop-offs at elevations climbing up to over 10,000 feet.
- S. 285. Because this highway crosses the cities of Carlsbad, Roswell, and Santa Fe heading north from the Texas border, drivers will see heavy traffic in several parts. More significantly, however, the road’s connection to the oil field regions of Texas and southeastern New Mexico make it an often-traveled route for commercial vehicles and large trucks, many of which are overloaded or operated by overworked drivers. The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) recognized the road’s shortcomings and began a reconstruction project in 2020 to address some of the issues.
- NM 567. Less than 12 miles running between Taos Junction at U.S. 285 and the eastern terminus at NM 570, this short byway offers magnificent scenery and treacherous driving conditions in equal measure. Speeding is not even an option for most vehicles on this road, as tires struggle to grapple with the rough, gravelly road. Driving can be especially dangerous at night, when unpaved road surfaces, falling rocks, narrow lanes, abrupt precipices, blind corners, sparse marking and signage, crossing animals, and a tight squeeze over the Taos Junction Bridge can all present dangers to drivers not on their guard.
- NM 31 and NM 128. Like Route 285, these formally rural areas of highway have become populated with speeding, oversized trucks thanks to a booming oil industry in and around the Permian Basin region. Since this area is more sparsely populated than others, commercial vehicle drivers facing work-related pressures have a tendency to speed carelessly through territory that is in fact many people’s home and farm land. The NMDOT is also in the process of developing plans to make these roads safer, and is asking for public involvement in the project.
Roads in Santa Fe, NM
- Cerrillos Road. Tightly-packed buildings including retailers, homes, and schools make Cerillos Road one of the city’s busiest streets. The NMDOT recently announced plans to make improvements to both the street and adjacent sidewalks of the road’s hardest-working sections, citing the narrow lanes, surface damage, and insufficient turning lanes as issues.
- Michael’s Drive. The seven lanes of traffic on St. Michael’s Drive handle about 25,000-30,000 vehicles per day. Cars frequently pulling on and off the road in this crowded commercial area are in danger of collisions with both other vehicles and pedestrians. Pedestrian fatalities are a threat on this busy road. In March of 2021, a pedestrian was fatally struck while crossing the street. Drivers need to be extra vigilant in areas saturated with both foot and vehicle traffic.
- Francis Drive. St. Francis Drive is the primary north-south artery passing through Santa Fe, joining the traffic flows of U.S. 84 and U.S. 285 on this major, city-dividing corridor. Passing over and under St. Michael’s Drive and Rodeo Road, with intersections at Siringo Drive, W. Zia Road, Cerillos Road, and W. Alameda Street, St. Francis Drive is connected to most of the city’s most frequently-travelled districts. In addition, as speeding highway traffic and drunk driving can be problematic on this road, drivers should be aware of potential hazards, particularly when driving at night.
A Lawyer with Experience in Santa Fe, NM
As Santa Fe, NM personal injury lawyers, our job puts us on the road a lot. Through regular travel to meet with clients or participate in trials and depositions, we become very familiar with New Mexico’s systems of transportation. Like most people we talk to, we recognize the need for improvement while simultaneously taking pride in the many great things our state’s roadways offer. It is our hope that these roads be as safe as possible for every driver, biker, motorcyclist, and pedestrian.
At Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm, we take our position as legal counsel as an opportunity to make things better for all of us. We invite you to reach out to our office if you are in need of a car accident attorney. Let us partner with you in creating a better future for New Mexico’s drivers.