Christine Wilson and her husband, Wade, have come to the point that, every time they drive to their house, they’re afraid of what they are going to find.
The Wilsons have lived off NM 47 in Tomé for about three years and are tired of seeing accidents in front of their house and having vehicles land in their front yard.
Last week, a large truck landed in their garden and hit their house, which caused the wall to crack and move off its foundation.
“I like living here,” Christine Wilson said. “I like getting out of my house, taking my kids in the stroller and walking down to the square, going down to see the cows and walking to the river. But, I’m not comfortable living right off this highway.”
Last year, the couple began thinking of different ways to protect their house from potential traffic dangers. Several months ago, the Wilsons started digging a trench and collecting buckets to build a six-foot concrete bucket wall.
“We lead such busy lives that we haven’t been able to really work on it,” Wilson said. “We’re just very nervous and fearful to live here anymore. Everyone who lives in this community is very concerned about what happens on this road. Where else do you see people driving down the street with bumper stickers that say ‘Pray for me, I drive 47’?”
The truck that recently hit the Wilson’s house was being driven by a teenager who swerved to miss another vehicle that had cut her off. The teenager, who was not cited, was not hurt, but the Wilson’s house was severely damaged.
“There are cracks radiating in all directions from where she hit the corner of the house,” Wilson said. “The cracks are from the ground level and spread out to about a foot and a half up and on the window level.
“The vehicle pushed the wall so hard that the door is jammed,” Wilson said. “We have to slam it really hard several times to get it to close and pull on it very hard to get it open.”
Luckily, no one was inside at the time of the accident. Wade, who had come home late from work, had just arrived home and Christine was on her way home when the truck crashed into their house.
This was the second time in a year that the Wilsons came home to find that a vehicle had crashed into their front yard. About 10 months ago, Christine came home for lunch to find a truck on its side in the driveway.
“Another time, I got into my car with my one-year-old son and I looked both ways on (NM) 47 and there was no one coming,” she said. “I pulled into the northbound lane, and, before I could put my car into second gear, I heard a screaming horn and someone had hit me from behind.”
The other car flew across the highway and lodged into the neighbor’s fence. As soon as Wilson got out of her car, the driver turned around and left the scene.
This road is one of the scariest roads I’ve ever lived on,” Wilson said. “I grew up in the city, and I’m used to having a lot of cars around me. But, when I come down the road towards my house, my heart sinks. I worry what I’m going to find as I drive up to my house.”
Wilson said the main problem with NM 47 is speed. She says she can sit in her living room with her husband and two small children on a daily basis and see cars racing down the road at speeds reaching 80 to 100 miles per hour.
After three major accidents that have directly affected the Wilson’s, they have contacted the New Mexico Highway and Transportation Department in an effort to ease traffic problems on the highway.
Kathy Trujillo, a District 3 traffic engineer, said she was aware of the Wilson case and said her assistant has been to the house to assess the damage.
“Other than this case, we haven’t been informed of any other concerns about Highway 47,” Trujillo said. “We receive letters all the time about different roads in the state, and we look into all of them. We just haven’t received any complaints about this one.”
Trujillo said that, after an assessment is done in the Wilson case, the highway department will see if they need more signage, a guardrail or other types of safety precautions along the highway.
Wilson said a guardrail, or even widening the road, won’t prevent the dangers that are on NM 47. She said the only way people will be safe on the road is if they are made to drive slower.
“They need a 25 mile an hour speed limit, speed bumps, traffic lights, stop signs or whatever it takes to slow traffic down,” Wilson said.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.