ARTESIA, N.M. (KRQE) - A dangerous group of New Mexico highways now has the attention of the state Department of Public Safety.
On Tuesday dozens of officers hit those highways, the scene of almost 200 serious crashes involving big rigs and other commercial vehicles in the last year alone.
Twenty-four extra Motor Transportation Division officers have come from around the state to Eddy and Lea County targeting drivers close to heart of one of the state's biggest industries: oil and gas.
"Last calendar year, there were 181 serious commercial vehicle crashes in the Chaves, Eddy and Lea County areas," said MTD Capt. Bryan Credeur.
Credeur said 85 percent of those crashes, or 153 of them including eight fatalities, happened on Eddy and Lea County roads.
"We are well-aware of the problem, and we are trying to address the problem," said Credeur.
The high number of serious crashes is why officers made the trip for a three-day saturation patrol, since manpower is down in those areas.
"Eddy and Lea County specifically, we have a hard time staffing here due to the oil field and the great opportunities, employment opportunities in this area for personnel," Credeur said. "It's hard to compete."
The extra patrolmen are combining efforts to stop aggressive drivers and make sure commercial vehicles are operating within the law.
In one stop, a truck was pulled over for not having a license plate attached on the front of it. Turns out, the driver wasn't eligible to drive the commercial vehicle.
"The truck is going to be towed since the driver is not eligible to drive," MTD Patrolman Shane Phipps said. "It'll probably be towed back to Artesia."
Officers said they hope this crackdown will remind drivers to obey the law, but the goal of these saturation patrols in the long run is to help save lives.
Patrolmen are looking for speeders, unsafe lane changes, seat belts; all things police said have been contributing factors to serious crashes.
"Hopefully through our enforcement efforts, there's some education that goes with it as well," said Credeur.
MTD officers will be out in force near oil and gas field highways until late Thursday. Officials didn't have a tally of how many tickets they've handed out so far, but said they've stopped a lot of drivers.
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