New Mexico Distracted Driving Laws

April 10th, 2024 | by RON BELL

New Mexico Distracted Driving Laws

Your cell phone dings, alerting you to a new text. Meanwhile, your best buddy is riding next to you and wants you to watch a hilarious TikTok “real quick.” It won’t hurt to take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel just for a second—will it?

Unfortunately, distracted driving caused by scenarios like these leads to thousands of preventable accidents where people are injured or killed each year. Families are torn apart, communities are affected, and the healthcare system bears the burden of treating injuries that could have easily been avoided.

The Land of Enchantment isn’t immune. In fact, New Mexico is one of the states where distracted drivers are a major concern. Maybe it’s the beautiful scenery, long stretches of road, or just typical driver carelessness. Whatever the reason, the statistics are clear: too many accidents happen in New Mexico because someone was distracted behind the wheel. From Albuquerque to Santa Fe, many drivers need to wake up, pay attention, and change their behavior. It’s not just their own lives they’re risking. It’s the lives of everyone else on the road, too.

The Scope of the Distracted Driving Problem in New Mexico

In New Mexico, the statistics paint a sobering picture of the impact of distracted driving. In 2021 (the most recent data available), New Mexico had the highest rate of distracted driving fatalities (40.75%) for the fourth year in a row. This rate was double Hawaii’s, the state with the second highest rate. These incidents aren’t just numbers; they represent real people whose lives have been affected by a moment of distraction behind the wheel.

When compared to national averages, New Mexico’s distracted driving problem really stands out. While distracted driving is a nationwide issue, the rate of incidents in New Mexico is five times higher than the national rate of 8.12%. This troubling trend suggests that efforts to combat distracted driving in the state may need to be intensified to bring it more in line with national figures. With the proliferation of smartphones and other electronic devices, the risk of distraction on the roads continues to grow, making it imperative for New Mexico to address this issue head-on.

New Mexico distracted driving data and other statistics at a glance

New Mexico Distracted Driving Statistics Infographic

What Are the Three Types of Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving encompasses any activity that diverts a driver’s attention away from the primary task of operating a vehicle safely. This can include texting or using a cell phone, talking to passengers, eating or drinking, adjusting the radio or GPS, and even daydreaming. Essentially, anything that takes your focus off the road can be considered a distraction.

There are three main types of distractions that drivers face: cognitive, visual, and manual.

Cognitive: Cognitive distractions occur when the driver’s mind is not fully focused on driving. This could be due to daydreaming, thinking about personal issues, or even being preoccupied with a conversation.

Visual: Visual distractions involve taking your eyes off the road, such as looking at a mobile device screen or turning to talk to passengers.

Manual: Manual distractions occur when the driver takes their hands off the steering wheel, like reaching for something in the backseat, typing a text, or adjusting the controls on the dashboard.

One common misconception about multitasking while driving is the belief that it’s possible to effectively divide attention between driving and other activities. However, research has shown that the human brain is not capable of truly multitasking when it comes to complex tasks like driving.

Instead, what often happens is task switching, where the brain rapidly switches its focus between different tasks. This can lead to slower reaction times and decreased ability to recognize and respond to hazards on the road. So, while you may think you’re capable of texting and driving safely, the reality is that doing so significantly increases the risk of an accident.

New Mexico’s Distracted Driving Laws

New Mexico outlawed texting while driving in 2014 when it passed statute 66-7-374. The law prohibits drivers from texting while “in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on a highway or street.” The law clearly prohibits texting while driving, but it may come as a surprise to some drivers that this law also applies to drivers who are temporarily stopped, such as while sitting at a traffic light or waiting in standstill traffic. If you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle, you can be fined for texting. The statute calls for a fine of $25 for the first offense of texting while driving and increases to $50 for all subsequent offenses.

Here are some specific details about New Mexico laws regarding texting and general cell phone use while driving.

  • Commercial drivers are not allowed to use a cell phone while driving due the risk of truck accidents.
  • Other drivers are not allowed to read, view, or type a text message on a hand-held cell phone while driving according to New Mexico law.
  • It is illegal to use a phone for calls or texting at stoplights, stop signs, and traffic signals in New Mexico as it still falls under the law’s definition of “driving.”
  • Drivers who pull over to the side of the road and park the car are allowed to text or take calls.
  • Police may seize cell phones to check if text messages were sent or received.

A distracted driving traffic violation isn’t proof of negligence in an accident on its own. However, a distracted driving accident lawyer can use the ticket as a legal basis for a pattern of carelessness by the driver.

Contact Ron Bell Injury Attorneys Today for a Free Consultation

If you’ve been the victim of a car accident caused by a distracted driver, contact the experienced Albuquerque car accident attorneys at Ron Bell Injury Lawyers today. We can help you navigate the complexities of insurance claims, gather evidence to support your case, and pursue the compensation you deserve for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. Our Albuquerque personal injury lawyers understand the challenges you may be facing after a car crash. We’re dedicated to providing you with compassionate support and aggressive representation every step of the way.

Promoting safe driving habits isn’t just about reducing accidents. It’s about protecting lives and ensuring a better future for everyone on Albuquerque’s roads. By working together and prioritizing road safety, we can create a community where everyone can travel without fear of distraction-related accidents.

Safety Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving

Across the country, April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. However, drivers should practice safety measures every day to help minimize crashes and injuries caused by being distracted. Practical steps drivers can take include:

  • Prior to driving, ensure that your vehicle is free from distractions. Stow away your phone, secure loose items, and organize any materials so they won’t shift while driving.
  • Take advantage of hands-free features in your car, such as Bluetooth connectivity for calls and voice-activated commands for navigation or music. However, avoid interacting with complex technology that diverts your attention from the road.
  • Plan your route and any necessary adjustments before starting your journey. This minimizes the need for on-the-go navigation and reduces the temptation to check your phone or GPS while driving.
  • Be mindful of your thoughts and actions, avoiding multitasking or daydreaming. If you find your mind wandering, gently redirect your focus back to the road.
  • Set a positive example for passengers, especially young drivers or family members. Demonstrate responsible driving habits by avoiding cell phone use and other distractions yourself, emphasizing the importance of safety behind the wheel.

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