Anyone who drove U.S. 550 between Bloomfield and Cuba during the last 18 weeks likely noticed an increased presence of law enforcement officers from city, county, tribal and state agencies. It was, in the words of one observer, "lit up like a Christmas tree" with so many police car lights flashing as police tightened enforcement of highway laws and hunted down possible drunk drivers to save lives.
The increase was part of a project initiated to curb drunken driving along the highway, where alcohol-related fatalities were becoming all too common. The 18-week project ended successfully when police reported no injury accidents occurred on that busy stretch of road during that timeframe.
Those efforts should continue, as now is not the time to let up, and kudos are in order for a successful program.
Fortunately, local law enforcement agencies seem to agree. Officials are saying don't expect to see fewer patrol cars on U.S. 550 just because a kick-start program under a special name has ended. They, too, see the results and understand lives likely were saved by the consistent visible presence of law enforcement on the road.
Six people died in a six-week period on the stretch from November through New Year's Day.
Agnes Lopez, 54, on New Year's Day was traveling south on U.S. 550 but driving in the northbound lanes when she crashed head-on into a white Grand Prix, driven by a 14-year-old girl.
Lopez and passenger Cecilia Martinez, 70, were pronounced dead on the
Minutes after the fatal crash occurred, Jasper Lopez, who likely was intoxicated, was struck and killed while walking across U.S. 550 by the Hilltop Mustang gas station. While the driver in that crash was not believed to be intoxicated, a Sheriff's deputy had dropped off Lopez minutes earlier to respond to the fatal crash.
Six weeks earlier on the same stretch of road, two people were killed in a drunken driving crash near Huerfano.
The state police, during the 18-week period, reported 15 drunken driving arrests, 47 suspended or revoked license citations, five felony arrests, recovered three stolen vehicles and made three drug arrests, in addition to a slew of other citations.
The highest number of citations, by far, were for speeding, which totaled 1,183.
Officers were busy, and the results are clear.
Their efforts paid off with no additional fatalities recorded, and that's an effort worth applause and continuation.