RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a four-mile stretch of highway in New Mexico that has been the scene of some serious crashes, including one last summer that left a 12-year-old girl dead. It keeps Rio Rancho police busy as they typically respond to hundreds of crashes there each year.
Body camera video shows what happened as police got to the crash scene on Highway 528 near Southern. A 19-year-old is charged with vehicular homicide, accused of topping 100 miles per hour before crashing into a car, killing the 12-year-old girl in the passenger seat. That was in June 2020.
About a month later, up the road at 528 and Northern, a man had to be flown to the hospital after a bad crash. One of the officers on scene mentioned to another officer that he had just responded to a crash there the day before.
The day after that July crash, Rio Rancho Police encountered a Jeep flipped onto its roof on 528 at Sara road. As an employee at a nearby gas station pulled surveillance video for police, she did not seem too surprised to hear about another crash there. “It just happened there last week too,” the woman told the officer.
So, how common is it? Looking at four miles of Highway 528 from Westside Boulevard NW to Northern Boulevard NE, Rio Rancho Police say that they responded to 229 crashes in 2018, 227 in 2019 and 164 in 2020, during the pandemic when fewer drivers were on the road. “We are a constant presence on 528,” RRPD Deputy Chief Andrew Rodriguez said. “It does keep us busy.”
When asked about the reason why, he replied, “It’s the volume of traffic. If you look historically at the city, that’s where we see a lot of commercial traffic and people coming in to visit Rio Rancho.”
The intersection along this route with the most crashes is Southern and 528. Data from the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG), which studies traffic patterns in the Albuquerque metro area, took the volume of traffic into account by examing the number of crashes per million cars that pass through the intersection. MRCOG found that the crash rate at that intersection was 1.6 times more than the regional average between 2014 and 2018. Similarly, the rate of severe crashes alone, where someone was injured or killed, was also 1.6 times worse than average.
“If I’m a member of the public, any more than 0 is a lot, especially if it’s my child that’s been involved in a crash, right? If you’re a police officer, and you’re having to respond to crashes, any more than 0 is a lot to them,” Deputy Chief Rodriguez said.
The deputy chief also said targeted traffic enforcement can curb crashes, catching unsafe driving before someone gets hurt. “All of it just comes down to strategic deployment of our resources and doing the best we can to keep the public safe,” Deputy Chief Rodriguez said.
After a serious crash in July, police even got a little help from the public. A driver came upon the crash scene before an ambulance arrived, and she hopped out of her car to let officers know that she was a nurse.
The woman helped the man suffering from a serious head wound. A collision with a car had knocked him off his motorcycle. He was flown to the hospital for emergency surgery and was on the road to recovery when police visited him 10 days later.