March 29, 2010

New Mexico consistently suffers one of the highest rates of interstate motor vehicle fatalities in the country; and ours is more than 50 percent higher than the national rate, according to a report released by New Mexico’s Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI). The report, recently published in theJournal of Forensic Sciences, examines 1,197 fatalities from 924 crashes on New Mexico’s three Interstate Highways between 1990 and 2004. Nearly seven percent of those were wrong-way driving crashes (49 collisions) that resulted in 79 fatalities. A few of the more poignant results include:

  • Alcohol was determined to be the likely cause in 59 percent of wrong-way collisions;
  • Wrong-way fatalities were significantly more frequent in the dark;
  • Interstate 40 had the highest numbers of crashes and fatalities from wrong-way driving;
  • Most crashes were clustered around Albuquerque and Gallup;
  • The highest numbers of wrong-way driving fatalities occurred in November, and the fewest in October.

Decedent demographics, driver/passenger status, seatbelt use, BAC, weather and types of vehicles also are included in the report. "Wrong-way collisions are only one type of catastrophe resulting from drinking and driving," concludes the report’s primary author Sarah Lathrop, Ph.D., UNM associate professor of Pathology and epidemiologist with the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator. "Better understanding these data certainly strengthens the need for drunk-driving prevention programs."  For more information, call 505/272-3679.


Contact: Luke Frank, 272-3322