Road safety

DOT discusses Sandia Crest Road safety measures

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – Following last week’s fatal accident on Sandia Crest Rd. many people are wondering why this road doesn’t have more guardrails. David Hunter, 31, a sergeant with MDC, was killed last week when the truck he was in veered off the snowy road in Sandia Crest.

KRQE News 13 found a memorial and the truck was still there 100 feet down the mountain. In this same area, there are no guardrails in place and after this fatal accident, many wonder why.

“There are areas that we determine to be dangerous that have cliffs and busy areas where people would need this guardrail, but there are other areas where there is a slow speed limit and the guardrails are not required,” said New Mexico Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kimberley Gallegos.

Gallegos says areas of the ridge road that have curves have guardrails for safety, but the stretch of road where the accident happened is straight and does not warrant those barriers. Gallegos says that every two years the DOT evaluates safety improvements along the highways and just recently evaluated the ridge road.

“Over the past five or six years we’ve had major guardrails installed with NM 536 which is Sandia Crest Road,” Gallegos says, it’s also the responsibility of drivers to know the safety signs in the area. “There are speed limit signs, signs for designated areas to take for the trails, there are slow signs on the edges where you go around the huge mountain where you are told to drive slower and go slower. ‘be careful,’ Gallegos said.

The DOT wants to discourage anyone from driving up the ridge road when there is a major storm like the one we saw last week. “Our plows go up there and plow the residential areas higher up. It’s not recommended because of the elevation and we already have our priority routes for snow removal, so our main concern is the interstate highways first, the New Mexico highways. We have that on our list but we have our priority,” Gallegos said.

When asked why this road was not closed during the storm, the DOT said it was out of their control. “It has not been closed because only state police can close the roadway, but we strongly advise against travel in bad weather,” Gallegos said.

The investigation into the accident that killed Hunter is still ongoing. It is not known if he was driving, but the truck was registered to him. Another person involved in the accident has been discharged from hospital. BCSO is still trying to find a man who tried to help the hunter that day.