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DWI wrecks down more than stated

DWI WRECKS ARE REALLY DOWN: Last week the New Mexico Department of Transportation lauded a decrease in drunken-driving wrecks over the past 36 years, and that prompted alert reader Paul Bossert to do a little math.

westphal_dval_road-warrorAnd he found that what was a purported decent decrease was really lot bigger.

He emails that the state cited “a reduction in alcohol-related crashes – from 7,641 in 1979 to 1,481 in 2015 – as a 19 percent reduction. That is actually an 81 percent reduction.”

“I would call an 81 percent reduction a huge policy success. Your 400 percent understatement of the reduction in alcohol-related crashes hides a great success for the New Mexico. How about a tiny little pat on the back?”

You’ve got it, New Mexico.

Matt Kennicott, director of communications for NMDOT, graciously takes the blame and explains “this was a math error and not purposefully underplayed by any means. The 81 percent reduction is actually much better news.”

OVER 75 RENEW ANNUALLY UNTIL NOVEMBER: A recent UpFront column on Real ID licenses included that the state legislation changes the age at which senior drivers have to renew their licenses annually – from 75 to 79.

Current law requires annual license renewals at age 75 but waives the charge. So when does the higher age kick in, and what do drivers who have to renew in the interim do? A reader who’s 76 called to ask those pragmatic questions.

Ben Cloutier, director of communications for Tax & Rev, which oversees the Motor Vehicle Division, says the change will take effect Nov. 18. At that point, seniors will be able to pay for four- and eight-year licenses that take them to age 79, at which point they will be on the annual free renewal plan.

In the interim, Cloutier says, drivers should renew their licenses per the current law. That means our reader, who is 76, should go in and get another one-year license, free at the state MVD offices.

Next year, when he goes to renew at age 77, he will be able to get a license good until he is 79. And because it will only be good for two years, Cloutier says the cost will be pro-rated.

WHY ISN’T THE LOUISIANA EXIT SIGN COVERED? That comes from Christopher M. Timm, who emails that since the exit ramp on eastbound Interstate 40 is under construction, shouldn’t “the permanent (green) exit signs for Louisiana on eastbound I-40 (be) covered with signs that say Closed? Isn’t that the usual practice in addition to the electronic signs, etc?”

Bernadette Bell, public relations officer for NMDOT’s District Three office, explains “the extruded signs (interstate overhead signs) were not covered up, in part, for the following reasons:

1) The short duration of the closure.

2) Use of other advance warning signage through portable message boards, supplemented with digital overhead message boards.

3) Risk to damaging extruded sign and sheeting.

As a reminder, we offer the public road/ramp closure information on, through notifying all traffic managers at media outlets and through our weekly traffic report.”

BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL IN RIO RANCHO: Last year Dworkin Muller asked in an email about a blue light at N.M. 528 and Southern that “appears to be on whenever the (north-to-west turn) arrow is red and off when it’s green. None of the turn arrows for the other directions have it, and I’ve not seen anything along those lines anywhere else in the Metro area. What information is it meant to convey, and to whom?”

Annemarie García, communications and information manager for Rio Rancho, got right back to me, but her response got buried in my inbox. But it’s so interesting it’s worth the wait.

Turns out “the blue light is an indicator light for police officers. It was installed to give police officers a better indication of drivers running red lights.”

SPEAKING OF POLICE LIGHTS: Mjtatarsky8 emailed around the same time “I have been seeing a lot of non-emergency vehicles using the same color lights as police cars. Why is this allowed? It makes a driver gear up for an emergency ahead when there really isn’t one.”

It is not allowed.

The Albuquerque Police Department has said “only law enforcement can have forward-facing red and blue lights.” And state law 66-7-6 (Authorized emergency vehicles) Section C and 66-3-835 (Special restrictions on lamp) Sections C and E clarifies that “only fire department vehicles, law enforcement agency vehicles, ambulances and school buses shall display flashing red lights visible from the front of the vehicle. All other vehicles authorized by the Motor Vehicle Code to display flashing lights visible from the front of the vehicle may use any other color of light that is visible.”

Those authorized vehicles include “emergency vehicles … snow-removal equipment and highway-marking equipment” as well as tow trucks that are removing or towing a vehicle.”

Assistant editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858;; or P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.