Route 285 in New Mexico long been a busy thoroughfare due to thousands of trucks hauling oil, natural gas, sand and water. The revenue from these natural resources keep a steady stream of traffic consistently clogging the highway and causing accidents. Highway 285 is so busy that it has earned the name “Death Highway’ due to the high number of accidents resulting in fatalities.
In 2017, the Eddy County Sheriff’s office responded to 115 crashes where 57 hurt and seven people died. Where Highway 285 stretches into Texas, it was even more deadly, as 93 people were killed, 43 percent higher than in 2012.
Oil prices causing high earning and fatigue
When oil prices rebounded in the last year it drove demand for more trucks to be out on Highway 285. The demand to haul oil and other supplies is so great that drivers can earn as much as $120,000 a year. With a motive to earn as much money as they can, some truck drivers speed and drive tired. The thirst for a good paycheck is resulting in fourteen-hour days and working for up to 11 days in a row for some drivers. Mental and physical fatigue while driving may be the result.
Young drivers can easily be seen driving trucks on Highway 285 in what may be their first job as a hauler. Being young and fearless may be playing a factor in the increase of accidents. To combat young drivers making the roads increasingly dangerous, some young drivers are taking a three-week driver’s training program. Once the training is complete, drivers will then take a test to receive their commercial driver’s license.
Big trucks on bad roads
One of the major problems on Highway 285 comes from large over-sized trucks having to share the road with traffic. It is not only hard to handle a fully loaded semi in excessive traffic, but also the condition of the roads may be in dis-repair. Sinkholes that can run several feet wide have been seen on the 285. Adding to the danger, Highway 285 is a two-lane road without much of a shoulder for drivers to use in case of emergency.
New Mexico officials are currently working to improve the conditions of Highway 285 and make it safer. However, a problem that is this big will take time to find solutions. Until conditions improve, this stretch of road going right through New Mexico may continue to be dangerous.