What to Know about Distracted Driving in New Mexico

Distracted woman driving while talking on the phone and drinking coffee

Everyone knows that texting while driving is dangerous. It’s a no-brainer.

You may have heard that sending a short text driving at 55 miles per hour is equivalent to traversing the length of a football field with your eyes closed. And we know that the statistics are bad. Nationally, nearly 390,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving, and responsible for 1 in every 4 car accidents, according to the National Safety Council.

In New Mexico in 2017 alone there were 9,386 accidents caused by driver distraction, and only 2,190 caused by drunk driving! It is so tempting to whip out just a short little text…no harm, right? Wrong! 

Here is some key information you may not know. New Mexico prohibits texting even if you are at a stop light. Officers may pull you over if they suspect you are distracted from giving your full attention to the road.

And prosecution for texting can extend well beyond standard negligence to involve criminal liability. You could be convicted of reckless driving which as a misdemeanor carries with it the potential to be sent to jail. Being informed is important!

Just for the record, distracted driving encompasses much more that texting or using your cell phone while driving. Some other causes of accidents for which distracted driving is a potential factor include the following:

  • Putting on makeup.
  • Talking to passengers.
  • Manipulating sound, GPS, or other onboard car systems.
  • Eating and drinking.
  • Shaving, smoking, searching for an item or any other activity that can cause a driver to not be 100% focused on the road with two-hands on the wheel.

If you are an at-fault driver involved in an accident caused by texting or using your phone, be advised that after being apprehended the police officer at the scene of the accident may confiscate your phone. He or she cannot delve into the contents of your phone without a warrant or permission from you, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in 2014.

However, keep in mind that If you refuse to allow the officer to inspect the contents of your phone, it may only take the officer as little as 15 minutes to generate a warrant to do so.

In New Mexico it is still legal to speak on a hand-held mobile phone while driving (except for teens and commercial drivers who cannot use hand-held devices at all). However, these following cities have passed their own statutes prohibiting the use of hand-held cell phones by the driver altogether:

  • Albuquerque
  • Santa Fe
  • Las Cruces
  • Gallup
  • Taos
  • Espanola

What IS allowed is hands-free operation of a phone and GPS.

If you are a victim involved in an accident involving distracted driving, try to stay alert and aware while at the scene of the accident. Gather as much information as possible without delay. Work with the police officer and file a police report. Tell the officer that you think texting (or other distracted driving) was a factor in the accident. Query witnesses. Telephone records can be subpoenaed later which will verify whether the driver was using their phone at the time of the accident.

In conclusion, don’t use your hand-held phone while driving, ever.  It’s reckless and dangerous, no exceptions. 

Regardless, these matters are complicated, and seeking legal counsel is advised. We can help! Call today for a free consultation – 505- 982-5380.

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