Winter storms slammed into Chaves County, Thursday night, resulting in a morning commute where one vehicle slammed into another. Although Roswell was not hit as hard as other areas of the state, Roswell Police Public Information Liaison Sabrina Morales reported 17 no-injury accidents in Roswell and Chaves County by 11 a.m. Friday morning and four injury accidents on county roads, for a total of 21.
Captain Dina Orozco said the New Mexico State Police had been called to investigate 14 of them.
In both city and county, secondary roads were hardest hit.
“We have to clear up accidents on the [auth] major highways, 70 and 285, before we can attend to those that took place on the minor roads,” Orozco said.
She reminded people to slow down during slick and frozen conditions. “Take your time. Don’t be in a rush.”
Morales agreed. “Be wary of other drivers, especially on the side roads.”
Each described a different set of issues during the holiday season. While driving under the influence had not been a major problem in the weeks around Christmas, a number of DUI related arrests were made at road blocks, Orozco said.
RPD saw a number of DUI cases in the lead up to Christmas and beyond. The weekend preceding Christmas resulted in two arrests, after the drivers refused to take breathalyzer tests, resulting in charges of aggravated DUI, a mandatory charge where a breath-test is refused. Michael Villa, 24, was charged with his third offense of aggravated driving under the influence. A few hours later, Larry Geurin, 44, was charged with his fifth offense of aggravated driving under the influence and open container of alcohol in motor vehicle.
On Christmas Eve, Jose Palma, 32, reportedly caused a wreck at the intersection of McGaffey Street and Wyoming Avenue when Palma, driving a Chevy Tahoe, plowed into a Ford pickup. The Chevy then struck a telephone pole. The passengers in the Ford suffered from a minor injuries. Palma was also treated for injuries and was released into police custody.
From Dec. 28 through 30, the Roswell Police Department arrested three on DUI charges. The first occurred when Raymond Contreras, 34, failed to stop at a stop sign. It was Contreras’ third DUI offense. He was charged with reckless driving, resisting, evading, or obstructing an officer, and two counts of failure to stop at a stop sign.
On Dec. 29, George Evilsizer, 37, was arrested after he failed a breathalyzer test with a registered potential blood alcohol content of 20 percent. The following day on Dec. 30, an officer observed Jeffery Grimwood, 44, blocking an intersection. He was asleep inside the vehicle with the engine still running. Grimwood’s breathalyzer results registered as .40 percent, more than four times the legal limit of .08 percent.
Oddly enough, no one was arrested for DUI on New Year’s Eve.
The New Mexico State Police reported a number of weather related accidents before Christmas because of dust storms. “We had a four-car pile-up on the day of the most recent dust storm and had to close up State Road 2 while we cleaned up,” Orozco said.
Poor visibility contributed to two accidents on Thursday, Dec. 28, along the relief route. “No people were arrested though.” She noted that alcohol was not a contributing factor to accidents over the holiday season.
She said that the worst areas in Chaves County for limited visibility due to dust were along stretches of road near Artesia and Hobbs. “Out in the county, you have wide-open spaces, no real landmarks. It makes it more difficult to get oriented. I don’t recall any accidents that were related to the fog on New Year’s Eve.”
Orozco said people needed to realize that if it’s cold enough to leave ice on the windshield, then it’s cold enough for the roads to ice up. “That’s the kind of condition that leads to black ice.”
She recommends that people take into account the weather all along their route and realize that conditions may change as the day progresses or as the distance traveled increases.