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What Are the Busiest Interstates in New Mexico?

wide open road in New Mexico

As home of the former Route 66, the historic Santa Fe Trail, and the first highway to cross the Continental Divide, New Mexico’s roadways can justifiably be called legendary. Our state’s fabled freeways are known and esteemed by road-trippers hailing from across the country and across the world. The three major interstates in New Mexico give drivers views of the El Malpais lava fields, Mt. Taylor, the Rio Grande, Tijeras Canyon, the Rio Puerco Bridge, the Santa Fe National Forest, and countless other natural wonders which make New Mexico deserving of its state nickname. The three interstates that travel within New Mexico’s borders are:

Interstate 25 (I-25)

This north-south interstate is the longest in New Mexico at over 462 miles in length, and it is also the busiest by sheer numbers. The “Big I” interchange where I-25 and I-40 intersect in northeast Albuquerque can accommodate more than 300,000 vehicles a day, easily making the Big I the largest highway interchange in the state. Other areas of I-25 offer unique scenery, and unique challenges, to drivers. For example, Ratón Pass at a nearly 8,000-foot elevation in northern New Mexico delivers stunning views, but dangerous driving conditions in inclement weather. The busiest passages of I-25 are found in and around the following cities:

  • Las Vegas
  • Albuquerque
  • Santa Fe
  • Las Cruces

Interstate 40 (I-40)

The east-west highway I-40 is not only one of the busiest thoroughfares in the state, but one of the heaviest-travelled roads in the country as well. A major interstate which covers most of the path of the historic Route 66, I-40 is used frequently by large commercial truck drivers and has a nearly-constant flow of traffic. The busiest section of I-40 to the east of the Big I sees over 200,000 vehicles per day. The stretch of I-40 most likely to experience the highest volume of traffic is in the Albuquerque metropolitan area between exits 149 and 170. The terrain along I-40 is also home to several famous cultural, historic, and natural sites which draw large numbers of visitors each year, including:

  • The Continental Divide
  • El Malpais National Monument
  • Acoma Pueblo
  • The Route 66 Monument at Tucumcari
  • Fort Sumner

Interstate 10 (I-10)

I-10 travels 164 miles east-west in southern New Mexico between the Arizona border and the I-25 interchange in Las Cruces. As the southernmost cross-country highway in the U.S., I-10 sees its fair share of commercial tractor-trailer travel. Due to the several long, remote stretches of roadway found along I-10 in New Mexico, it can be difficult for emergency vehicles to reach accident sites quickly, and this can result in elevated fatality rates in the event of a car collision. I-10 is also known for severe wind and dust storms and heavy summer thunderstorms which can arise suddenly and endanger drivers on the road who are unprepared for the hazards which accompany these harsh weather events. And because I-10 covers a somewhat isolated and less-populated region of the state with fewer tourist attractions, speeding and reckless driving can be an issue for drivers merely passing through the area. Interstate 10 covers the following counties:

  • Hidalgo
  • Grant
  • Luna
  • Doña Ana

Car Accidents on New Mexico’s Interstates

Although New Mexico can rightly boast of historic roadways with enchanting views, the state car accident statistics indicate the sobering truth of the dangers that drivers face on the interstates. New Mexico ranks among the highest in the country for careless driving, alcohol-involved accidents, and crashes involving large trucks. Additionally, due to the major interstates which pass through small cities, it is common in New Mexico for nonresident drivers to contribute to a high crash rate in cities with relatively small populations. Crash maps published by the University of New Mexico on behalf of the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) show a high concentration of both accidents and fatalities along interstate lines, particularly the passages of I-40 and I-25 nearest to Albuquerque.

On all roadway types in New Mexico, pedestrian fatalities comprise a disproportionately high number of crash-related deaths, compared to the proportion of crashes involving pedestrians. Too many incidents of pedestrian death have occurred when interstate drivers do not practice sufficient caution, ignoring signs of danger when a car is pulled over on the shoulder. Pedestrians who exit their vehicles to check the engine, change a tire, make a phone call, or deal with physical illness have been killed when struck by passing cars.

The roadways of I-25 and I-40, interstates which pass through the Albuquerque metropolitan area, are particularly dangerous to pedestrians who step outside of their vehicles. Alcohol only serves to compound the problem. In a shockingly high number of pedestrian-involved accidents in New Mexico, it is found that either the pedestrian or the driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. If you have been involved in an accident, an accident lawyer with experience in New Mexico car accident law can help you understand your rights and options.

Find Expert Legal Advice in Albuquerque

On average in New Mexico in 2019, a pedestrian was hit by a vehicle every 13 hours, and over 50% of all pedestrian fatalities occurred in Bernalillo County. Almost all these incidents could have been prevented. Our team at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm values the beauty and convenience of our interstate highways, and we want to make these roads safer for all of us. By using our knowledge and experience in car accident litigation, we can work to hold negligent drivers accountable and prevent future accidents. We take every case seriously, and we devote ourselves to getting the best outcome for you, so you can recover your losses and return to what is most important to you. We welcome you to give us a call if you are in need of a legal advocate. We will begin with an obligation-free discussion about how we can help you.

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