Law enforcement says a Bayfield man who caused a head-on crash earlier this month south of Durango accidentally ended up on the wrong side of a divided highway.
The crash occurred at 7:42 p.m. Nov. 15 near mile post 2.1 of U.S. Highway 550, a remote stretch of road south of Bondad and about 2 miles north of the state line. The crash occurred on a bridge that crosses a gully.
Residents in that area have been known to intentionally drive on the wrong side of the highway to expedite access to nearby addresses, said Trooper Jeffrey Chmielewski with the Colorado State Patrol.
That’s because there’s a median dividing the lanes of travel, which means residents must sometimes travel the opposite direction, turn around and circle back to reach a nearby location.
“We have reports from other people that they’ve seen cars intentionally drive the wrong way, and we want to ensure those folks are aware that is neither safe nor legal and places their lives in jeopardy and those of everybody else on the highway,” Chmielewski said.
But that wasn’t the case involving Dustin Martinez, the driver of a Ford Explorer, who found himself in the southbound lane while traveling north.
Martinez apparently became confused south of the crash scene where the north and south lanes are not divided and steered his vehicle into the southbound lane where the highway becomes divided.
“The best information that we have right now is that it was not intentional,” Chmielewski said. “He was en route to Durango and did not mean to cross over to the other side of the highway but was confused about where he was.”
No drugs or alcohol are suspected.
Citations have not yet been issued.
Martinez ended up crashing head-on into a white Toyota Tundra being driven by Mark Knight, 37, of Farmington with his sister, Shayla Baysinger, 25, of Thornton in the passenger seat. Both, who were wearing seat belts, were taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center where they were treated and released.
Martinez, who was not wearing a seat belt, was airlifted with serious injuries to a hospital in New Mexico, where he remained in stable condition Wednesday.
“Seat belts save lives, and they make a huge impact on any crash,” Chmielewski said, “especially a head-on like this one.”