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New Mexico drivers ranked 6th from the bottom

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Here’s something to keep in mind while driving to your holiday destinations this year: a new report ranks New Mexico drivers as the sixth-worst in the U.S. based on federal traffic-death data.

Weighing strongly against New Mexico is a high percentage of fatal drunken driving crashes, and a No. 1 ranking in pedestrian and bicycling deaths. New Mexicans ranked among the top 10 worst drivers in the nation for the second year in a row. Last year, New Mexico drivers ranked second-worst., a website that allows people to compare insurance companies, prepared the report based on 2015 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.

States with the worst driversTexas and Louisiana tied as the nation’s worst drivers based on five categories of traffic data: fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, failure to obey traffic signals or wear seat belts, drunken driving, speeding and careless driving.

The report ranked New Mexico 11th-worst in the U.S. for alcohol-involved fatalities on the roadways. Alcohol was involved in 38 percent of New Mexico’s fatal crashes in 2015, the report found.

“Families are just so frustrated that the drunk drivers aren’t getting the message,” said Dolly Otero, lead victim services advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving of New Mexico, an advocacy group for victims of drunken driving.

Drivers with a blood-alcohol content of 0.01 or higher were involved in 144 of the state’s 383 fatal accidents that year, according to federal data.

Drivers with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or higher – the legal limit of intoxication in New Mexico – were involved in 116, or 30 percent of fatal crashes.

Society is doing a better job discouraging drunken driving, with DWI checkpoints and the availability of safe-ride alternatives, such as the Uber smartphone app and free taxi service, Otero said.

“The message is out there, but they continue to drink and drive,” she said. “People still aren’t getting it.”

Also working against New Mexico is its No. 1 ranking for cycling and pedestrian fatalities by population, which the report calls “careless driving.”

New Mexico racked up 74 pedestrian and five bicyclist fatalities, for a combined rate of 3.8 per 100,000 population, the federal data shows.

“The majority of careless driving is done by distracted drivers – people who drive while doing other activities that take their attention away from driving,” the report said. Cellphone usage is the most common reason for distracted driving, it said.

New Mexico law enforcement officers also have identified alcohol use, by both pedestrians and drivers, as a key factor in the state’s high rate of pedestrian deaths.

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