Deadly crashes happen far too often on Albuquerque’s freeways. But as News 13 discovered on Special Assignment, some of the most dangerous spots for drivers in the city are actually right off the interstates, on streets people treat like the freeway.
Albuquerque’s streets see thousands of car crashes every year, some worse than others. But as APD traffic Lieutenant Zak Cottrell will tell you, most cases have a common theme.
“Almost every crash is completely avoidable,” Lt. Cottrell said.
A spreadsheet from Albuquerque police shows more than 1,500 crashes in 2018 were caused by drivers either speeding, disregarding traffic signals, or both.
The list goes on and on. Last year, nearly 90 of those crashes happened on Albuquerque’s frontage roads. The same tally as 2017.
“What we’re seeing is people are exiting the freeway at freeway speeds, and as they get on the frontage road they’re not slowing down to the 40 mph speed limit,” Lt. Cottrell explained.
At the intersection of I-25 and Mountain, the aftermath of accidents that happen there is apparent. “There’s car parts everywhere over here from vehicle crashes at this intersection,” Lt. Cottrell said.
The New Mexico Department of Transportation added warning signs, flashing lights on the southbound frontage road, even rumble strips to prepare drivers for the stop light at Mountain.
“I believe that they are helping, we’ve actually gone back and talked to the neighborhood associations after we put the beacon sign in,” explained Kimberly Gallegos with the NMDOT.
“I think after the rumble strips, people were really aware of that light coming up,” Gallegos added.
Another hot spot for crashes are the frontage roads along Coors by I-40.
“Coors is still kind of a wide open road for the city where the intersections are far apart, which gives drivers an opportunity to pick up speed,” explained Lt. Cottrell.
From time to time, officers work what they call high-intensity traffic enforcement there, writing hundreds of speeding tickets in a day, hoping people will get the message.
“We’re anywhere between 76 to 85 crashes a day,” said Cottrell. “It’s a lot for a city this size.”
Then there are spots like the one near I-25 and Montgomery. Some drivers leaving nearby businesses there cut completely across the frontage road to avoid the light and get on the freeway.
So, the DOT added delineators to keep people from doing that. Gallegos said the NMDOT works with police to find similar trouble spots and re-evaluate the roadway design.
“But again, it’s driver distraction, it’s speed,” said Gallegos. “Sometimes it’s just people in a hurry getting to where they’re going.”
If you’ve exited off I-25 to Comanche, you’re familiar with the quick maneuvers drivers try to make over multiple lanes to get over to the right turn lane, all with frontage road traffic bearing down on you from behind.
“It’s kinda scary,” explained Isaiah Madrid, who works at Athlete Ready, right off the I-25 frontage road near Comanche.
“You have 100 yards to go from the right lane all the way to the far left lane if you need to turn left,” Madrid explained. “At that same time you have people coming off the freeway at a high speed, you have people going left, and then you also have people merging into the lane that you’re going straight into.”
Workers in this shopping center say they see crashes there weekly. “Currently, we have 15 officers in traffic in all,” said Lt. Cottrell.
It’s obvious officers can’t write tickets for every red light runner, speeder, or even respond to every crash. “We try to take accidents with injuries,” said Cottrell. “We are also responsible for investigating all fatal crashes in the city.”
Because deadly crash scenes are far too familiar in Albuquerque, Madrid hopes drivers will do their part to change that. “Slow down, take us all into consideration, and too like, we all have somewhere to be. We’re all gonna get there hopefully,” Madrid said.
Drivers know it’s not just the frontage roads where speeders and red-light runners are causing crashes. To check out more hot spots around Albuquerque where these crashes happen, click here.