The number of New Mexico distracted driving citations issued to drivers have increased since 2016, causing the laws to change to address the problem. Distracted driving facts have been collected in New Mexico on the enforcement of driving laws and the accidents associated with careless driving to better determine how to address drivers’ inattentiveness on the road. Distractions like cellphones and other electronic devices are some of the biggest threats to driving safety, but they are not the only ones.

Laws against inattentive driving usually target certain populations prone to distracted driving, but all drivers must know what dangers distractions pose on the road to prevent disasters from occurring. The following sections explain facts about distracted driving and how drivers and passengers may be able to help reduce the distractions to promote safer roadways.

What is distracted driving in New Mexico?

According to the NM Department of Transportation (NMDOT), driving distractions like cellphones contribute to nearly 330,000 injuries annually throughout the U.S. and upward of 1.6 million accidents. However, distracted driving can be a crime even if it does not cause an accident. In fact, anything that may divert a driver’s attention away from the act of driving is dangerous and is considered a distraction in NM. Common distractions drivers may encounter are as follows:

  • Cellphones
  • Loud or disruptive passengers
  • Loose items inside the vehicle
  • Exterior commotion (e.g., a car crash)

Any of the above distractions can lead to distracted driving accidents and should be avoided whenever possible. Additionally, drivers must prepare for distractions in order to limit their effects on their driving.

Distracted Driving Laws in New Mexico for Handheld Devices

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimated that cell phone use while driving resulted in about 21 percent of all car crashes in 2010. Therefore, NM has employed distracted driving laws that ban drivers from texting and typing on wireless devices while driving. These laws remain valid during temporary stops at traffic lights or stop signs. However, in-dash interactive systems and GPS navigation are permitted for road use. While there are no restrictions on talking on a handheld device for most NM drivers, operating vehicles while holding a mobile device is unsafe.

Still, drivers must remember that some cities and municipalities in NM may have firmer laws against distracted driving, so they should be aware of any other restrictions that may apply to them. For example, a complete cellphone ban on calling and texting is in effect in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Silver City, Gallup, Taos and Espanola under local ordinances.

Texting and Driving Laws in New Mexico

Since 2011, texting and driving has been banned in New Mexico. The NM texting and driving laws only fully ban texting in school zones, but certain drivers, specifically novice and public transport drivers, are always restricted from using their phones. For these drivers, who usually have learner’s permits, violations are considered primary offenses, which means that safety officers may legally pull over drivers for the violation.

New Mexico Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers

Most novice drivers in the U.S. between the ages of 16 and 24 (82 percent) have admitted to texting and driving despite the state laws against it, making the action a major threat to the safety of young drivers. To help stop distracted driving in New Mexico, laws state that any driver holding a learner’s permit or intermediate license cannot text or talk using an electronic device while driving. This ban on cell phone use while driving also applies to all handheld and hands-free devices. Novice drivers who break the law will receive a distracted driving ticket and face penalties based on their offenses.

New Mexico Distracted Driving Regulations for CDL Holders

All commercial drivers license (CDL) holders are prohibited from talking and texting while driving in New Mexico, but some exceptions may apply to commercial drivers. A list of all exceptions to this distracted driving rule is provided below:

  • The driver is contacting emergency services.
  • The driver is operating a GPS or other navigation system.
  • The devices the driver is using are integrated into the vehicle.
  • The devices are hands-free or voice-operated.

Because CDL holders are often responsible for other residents and products, additional regulations may be enforced by their employers.

Distracted Driving Penalties in New Mexico

For all drivers in NM distracted driving penalties may include a $25 fine for cellphone use and a $50 fine for all subsequent offenses. CDL holders may face a license suspension if they have broken a distracted driving law while already convicted of certain felonies. These distracted driving consequences are enforced by local law enforcement officers.

Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving in New Mexico

Drivers can reduce the likelihood of distracted driving accidents in NM by eliminating potential distractions and staying alert on the road. While the possibility of no texting and driving occurring in the state is unlikely, drivers should listen to the following advice to prevent driving disasters:

  • Your phone can wait. Talking on the phone while driving may seem safe, especially with hands-free technology, but the conversation could cause even the most experienced drivers to lose control of their vehicles. The best way to dodge a cell phone distraction is to power off your phone and other electronics while you are driving. You may also utilize “do not disturb” features that recognize when you are driving and silence your phone.
  • When it cannot wait, pull over. Ensure you are completely off the road and away from traffic before using your device or addressing an issue in your vehicle.
  • Communicate with your passengers. If you are driving with passengers and feel that you are becoming distracted, ask the passenger to be quieter, move objects that are obstructing your view, etc. It is essential that all passengers understand the importance of driver concentration, so remind them when necessary.
Last updated on Friday, September 21 2018.

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