Traffic deaths – and fatal DWIs – have declined during pandemic - Albuquerque Journal

Traffic deaths – and fatal DWIs – have declined during pandemic


If we ever needed a silver lining to the pandemic, this one is tailor-made for New Mexico.

According to the number crunchers at the New Mexico Department of Transportation and the University of New Mexico, traffic deaths are down almost 9% this year compared with the same time period in 2019 – 259 vehicle fatalities in January through August this year, 284 last year.

The 8.8% drop correlates with the state shutdown. There were more deaths on the roads overall this January (40 vs. 34 last year) and February saw little change (26 this year vs. 28 last year). In March, when the governor buttoned-down much of the state to fight coronavirus community spread, the traffic deaths start dropping, 30 vs. 42 the year before, 25 vs. 26 in April, 26 vs. 41 in May, 35 vs. 45 in July and 33 vs. 41 in August.

This June was the outlier month, with an increase, 44 deaths, up from 27 in 2019.

But the news gets even better.

DWI DEATHS DROP ALMOST 43%: In the first eight months of 2019, there were 117 traffic deaths related to alcohol.

While any is still too many, during this year, 67 people have died in alcohol-related traffic crashes. That is a whopping 42.7% decrease from 2019 to 2020.

And while there were fewer alcohol-related deaths every month this year compared with last year – including in June – the largest drops were in July and August – last year there were 21 and 20 deaths, respectively. This year, nine and six.

NO-SEAT-BELT DEATHS UP: Unfortunately, seat belt use appears to be down. Last year 95 the 173 people killed in wrecks from January through August were not buckled in – 54.9%. This year, 111 of the 166 killed so far on our roads were not wearing seat belts – 66.9%.

IT’S BIKE TO WORK WEEK: The coronavirus put the one-day Bike To Work event on hold back in May, but the city of Albuquerque is coming back bigger with a full week of “¡Bike Thru Burque!” which runs through Saturday.

Johnny Chandler of the city’s Department of Municipal Development says in a news release that participants can:

• Go to to check out events, activities and resources.

• Visit the website to Commit to Ride.

• Take the online survey to help improve bicycling here.

• Order free gear, including 2020 Bike to Work Day T-shirts, to be picked up at local businesses.

• Join in activities including a scavenger hunt and photo contest where you can bike on your own time and submit your ride to be entered to win prizes.

• Share your experience on social media by using #bikethruburque and #justbikeabq.

VIRTUAL CAR SEAT CHECKS SATURDAY: NMDOT and Safer New Mexico Now will be offering 30-minute one-on-one Zoom sessions giving “parents and caregivers instruction on the proper selection, installation and use of their car seats from nationally certified child passenger safety technicians,” according to a news release.

Make your appointment by Thursday by calling 800-231-6145 or visiting

To take advantage of the free sessions, you need to have a valid email address, a laptop or smartphone with video capabilities, internet access, and Zoom access via the website or app. You’ll have to sign a liability waiver, and you’ll need the car/booster seat and manual, your vehicle manual, and the child’s exact height and weight. And have the child with you if possible. The news release suggests a second person may be helpful during the session.

Correct installation is crucial to the seats protecting children. “Motor vehicle-related injuries remain a leading cause of death for children ages 15 and younger,” the release says, attributing the information to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Using child safety seats decreases the risk of death by an estimated 71% for rear-facing infants and 54% for older, forward-facing children. Additionally, booster seats reduce the likelihood of significant injury for 4- to 8-year-old children over the use of seat belts alone.”

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858;; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, N.M., 87109.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

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