Program targets safe summer driving

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

The New Mexico State Police department is undertaking its annual 100 Days and Nights of Summer, but local officers would like to be able to reduce more than just alcohol-related incidents.

“It’s not just about drunk driving,” said Lt. Eric Garcia, public information officer for the state police. “It’s about proper driving for our residents.”

The program, which started last Friday, runs through Sept. 4.

Prior to the inaugural year of the program, there were 136 fatal vehicle crashes in the state during June, July and August — 56 of them involving alcohol, according to a press release from the state.

In 2009, those numbers dropped to 79 accidents with 33 involving alcohol.

“In recent years, we’ve thrown everything we have at combating drunk driving and making New Mexico roads safer, and the 100 Days and Nights of Summer has proven to be one of our most effective tools,” Gov. Bill Richardson said in the release.

Garcia said extra enforcement is positioned throughout the state’s roads, with emphasis on recreational areas and other areas that may have a history of traffic incidents.

“We are pinning down where the main concerns are at for each one of our counties,” Garcia said. “If there’s an interest of concern between, let’s say, Fort Sumner and Clovis, we’re going to go saturate that area. If there’s concern between Clovis and Tucumcari, we’re going to saturate that area.”

The program will be accompanied by a new media campaign that includes print materials, billboards, television and radio ads that focus on the efforts of law enforcement.

The program is paid for by the New Mexico Department of Transportation with money from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Garcia said the state police would like to be able to use money on overlapping shifts and overtime to take a similar approach year-round, but it’s “unfortunately” not financially feasible, even in years where there isn’t a budget shortfall.