Many drivers are noticing the increase in truck traffic with New Mexico’s oil and gas boom. Highways like U.S. 82, U.S. 285, N.M. 128 and N.M. 18 are suddenly filled with semitrucks hauling oil and gas supplies. According to the Albuquerque Journal, this influx of big rigs is not only a nuisance for residents, but it also creates dangerous road conditions.
Just this last summer, Heather Lopez lost a friend in a crash on U.S. 82 near Loco Hills. The Artesia man was killed when the truck he was driving slammed head-on into a big rig. Lopez acknowledges that he may have had a hard time seeing since the accident occurred just as the sun was coming up.
Lopez believes the increased traffic played a role in the fatal crash
However, Lopez thinks the volume and pace of traffic on U.S. 82 also played a role in her friend’s accident. She stated that drivers often get impatient now, and she has seen trucks pull out in front of cars. Lopez says the oil field traffic makes everyone drive like they are in a hurry.
The oil boom started around the end of 2016 in New Mexico.
Fatal crashes have increased in Eddy and Lea counties
Eddy County records show there were 17 fatal accidents in 2018 and 2017, but just seven in 2016. Next door in Lea County, the New Mexico State Police state there were 24 fatal crashes in 2018 with 12 in 2017 and 10 in 2016. These numbers reflect an increase in fatal accidents over the last two years.
Leo Gonzalez and his wife’s family live in houses that stretch along several miles of U.S. 285 between Loving and Malaga. Gonzalez says he sees three to four accidents a week along this stretch of highway. He too has seen semis that do not slow down and cut drivers off.
Weekdays from about 5 to 5:30 p.m., Gonzalez states, the traffic is backed up about three miles on 285. He worries about his wife’s family that is elderly. He states that if they needed to go to the hospital during one of the high traffic times, it would take them three times as long to get there.
Residents report being run off the road by trucks
Gonzalez has also been run off the road by semitrucks that do not slow down or yield. His family routinely finds things like fire extinguishers, tanks, and generators lying in the highway.
Semitrucks are damaging the highways
Although the backed-up traffic and the unsafe driving behaviors are bad enough, these big rigs are also damaging the highways. Jim Harris, the director of the Lea County Museum, states that N.M. 18 is all torn up now because the oil trucks are damaging the roads and leaving big holes.
Senator Gregg Fulfer, who owns an oil and cattle company, says the state needs to address hazardous and constricted road conditions in the areas around the oil boom. He believes this will help prevent trucking accidents and support what is a huge revenue-producing industry for New Mexico.
Residents call for road repairs and restructuring
The oil and gas industry is pumping a lot of money into the state’s pockets. New Mexico plans to invest as much as $300 to $400 million back into road projects. Residents who live in Eddy and Lea counties believe the bulk of that money should go toward repairing and restructuring their roads.
People involved in accidents with semitrucks often have a long road of recovery. If the driver of the truck caused the accident, you can hold the driver accountable for his or her negligence. You deserve the maximum compensation for your injuries, and an experienced New Mexico attorney can help you pursue it.