NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – There’s a push to keep semi-trucks out of the left lane on New Mexico highways and interstates. The state senator behind it said it’s all about safety and keeping traffic flowing more smoothly.
In a Senate Committee meeting, Senator George Munoz (D-Gallup) talked about how dangerous interstates like I-40 have become. He said it’s time to create a penalty for truckers who stay in the left lane.
“It’s dangerous; you get on I-40, and you’re going along at 75 miles an hour, and a semi pulls out at 65 and tries to pass the other semi at 67, and traffic backs up for ten miles and frustration levels with people are getting ridiculous,” Munoz.
Munoz said Senate Bill 102 would require semi-trucks to stay to the right way on any highway that has two lanes or more and creates up to a $250 fine if they don’t. This isn’t the first time Munoz has tried to get legislation like this passed.
A similar bill last year passed but wasn’t signed into law by the governor on a pocket veto. However, this time around, Munoz presented statistics as evidence for the need to try to get this law across the finish line again.
“It’s about 384 fatal accidents in New Mexico on I-40 alone,” Munoz said.
State Police Lieutenant Wendy Carpenter-Graft spoke generally about the department’s patrols on New Mexico’s highways and interstates and echoes the senator’s concerns.
“They can go in all lanes in New Mexico which makes it more difficult for the average driver coming across the state. It also means the trucks are in every lane and the trucks tend to take 30 to 40 percent longer to stop than a car does because of the size and the weight that they’re carrying,” Carpenter-Graft said.
When asked about this latest effort in the Roundhouse, Carpenter-Graft said keeping semis in the right lane would help: “If we cut it down to the right lane, or we were to add a lane, it would help New Mexico a lot. Even though we’re a very spread-out state and there’s not a lot of people here, the commercial traffic is still the same in every other state as it is in New Mexico. So, we have to accommodate for that.”
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Truckers would still be allowed to use the fast lane to pass. The bill passed the Senate Committee 8 to 0.
In that hearing, someone from the public also brought up the need to widen I-40 from Albuquerque to Arizona to three lanes in each direction. The Department of Transportation is studying the idea. A national transportation group estimated that could cost more than $800 million.