After seeing fatal crash after fatal crash, and even earning the nickname ‘the highway of death,’ New Mexico transportation officials finally took action along an infamous stretch of Highway 285 — but has the crackdown been working?
“Their presence has been noticed,” said Cruz Ornelas of Loving.
That was the goal last month when the Department of Transportation declared the 18-mile stretch of Highway 285 from Loving to the Texas state line a safety corridor.
Since then, drivers say they’ve become more cautious.
“I even worry about reaching for my radio to turn the station or whatever because you have to be on your game out here, no doubt,” said Gina Stewart of Carlsbad.
Other drivers are avoiding the area all together.
“I used to go to Orla all the time, but too much heavy traffic and trucks going crazy and trucks trying to pass,” said Rick Sterling of Carlsbad. “It’s just too much.”
The State Police presence is also helping in the double fine zone. State Police say they’ve handed out more than 250 citations since the signs were posted.
“That’s our main focus out here is to get people to slow down and drive safely,” explained State Police Captain Lance Bateman.
State Police believe drivers are getting the message and slowing down. The highway is already a much safer place.
“In the last three to four weeks we had one crash that we’ve handled, zero fatalities and I believe we’ve had about four or five DWI arrests in the last month,” Bateman said.
That’s something the people who have lost family members along Highway 285 are relieved to hear.
“It means more than I can even express. It means everything because it’s people’s lives,” said Gina Stewart, who lost her son-in-law, Jacob, in an accident along Highway 285.
The Eddy County Sheriff’s Department says it has also written about 100 tickets in the area over the past month.
Police in Texas are also cracking down on speeders on Highway 285 on their side of the state line.