The Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE — Declaring that New Mexico was locked in a long war to end drunken driving in the state, Department of Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel asked state residents Wednesday to “shed their blood” in an effort to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the roads.
Marcantel announced the department was launching a statewide blood drive to call attention the physical pain DWI is causing New Mexico. He began the program with blood drives aided by various law enforcement agencies.
“We are at war with the problem,” said Marcantel before giving blood himself at a Target store in Albuquerque. “And when you go to war, residents agree to shed their blood for the cause.”
State records show there are almost 500 people serving prison time in New Mexico for DWI-related convictions. About 100 of those were convicted of vehicular homicide or causing great bodily harm.
Marcantel said he got the idea for the blood drive after seeing the damaged patrol car of State Police Officer Carlos Verdugo from a June DWI crash.
Verdugo was in his patrol car near an intersection in Hobbs when he was hit by a vehicle while conducting a traffic stop, police said. A 40-year-old motorist was arrested on suspicion of two aggravated DWI charges and one count each of reckless driving and great bodily harm by vehicle.
Verdugo survived but was seriously injured and needed blood.
“I honestly don’t remember anything,” said Verdugo, who is on medical leave. “I’m glad at least I’m alive.”
Preliminary numbers show New Mexico saw 133 fatal alcohol-related crashes last year, a nearly 14 percent drop from 2012. That’s the lowest number of annual alcohol-related traffic deaths recorded in the state and marked a 38 percent decline from a decade ago.
The state’s previous low was in 2008, when New Mexico saw 143 alcohol-related traffic deaths.