New Mexico’s Texting and Driving Laws
Texting and driving in the U.S. is as common as it is dangerous. In this blog, we will present sobering statistics on this national epidemic, remind drivers about pertaining laws in our states, and give a few suggestions on how to curb this deadly trend.
Distracted driving is a true epidemic among motorists in the U.S. and a deadly one at that. Defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as “any activity that diverts attention from driving”, distracted driving may include a whole range of seemingly harmless actions – such as eating and drinking, talking to other people in the car, adjusting the volume of the car stereo or introducing a destination into the navigation system. Innocent though such activities may seem, in 2016, distracted driving cost the lives of 3,450 people and caused injury to almost 400,000.
Texting and driving, another example of distracted driving, is particularly dangerous. As reported by NHTSA, reading or sending a text message requires a driver to take their eyes off the road for as long as 5 seconds. To help motorists visualize what that means, NHTSA makes the following comparison: “At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed”. Of course, no driver in their right mind would willingly drive with their eyes closed for any period of time, let alone 5 seconds. Yet, texting and driving is basically like driving blindfolded and considering that an estimated 481,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving at any given moment during the day, there can be little wonder why the consequences are so disastrous.
New Mexico is by no means immune to this deadly epidemic. Preliminary reports from 2017 showed that there were at least 5,056 collisions related to distracted driving in our state. 3,113 of them left people injured while 47 were deadly. In addition, the state’s Department of Transportation reported that the number of crashes attributed to distracted driving in Bernalillo County had been going up steadily since 2013.
State Laws That Limit Cell Phone Use
The dangers of using a cell phone while driving are so obvious and the problem so widespread, that most states have adopted strict laws to curb this deadly epidemic. New Mexico law strictly prohibits texting or typing on a mobile device while driving. This holds true even when a vehicle comes to a temporary halt at traffic lights or stop signs. Novice drivers (those who hold a learner’s permit or provisional license) are completely prohibited from using their mobile phones while driving – whether handheld or hands-free. In addition, under local laws, talking on a mobile phone is completely prohibited in some New Mexico cities such as Albuquerque or Santa Fe. Commercial drivers are prohibited from texting and talking on a phone while driving in New Mexico unless the device is hands-free or voice-operated (though using a GPS or another navigation system is permitted).
How to Minimize the Risk
According to the DMV, as much as 82% of New Mexico drivers aged 16 to 24 have admitted to texting and driving. Nationwide reports show that cell phone use while driving is indeed the highest in the above-mentioned demographic. However, 85% of young adults who do engage in texting while driving at the same time admit this is a problem. What this discrepancy may point to is that, while many young and novice drivers are aware of the dangers of texting and driving, the compulsion to look at the phone, respond to a text, or give a like to a friend’s photo often proves too great to resist. That’s why NHTSA advises all drivers, regardless of their age, to simply turn off all electronic devices before starting to drive and putting out of reach.
In addition, teenagers and young adults shouldn’t be afraid to speak up against distracted driving, especially when they’re the passengers. A good idea may be to offer the driver to make a call or respond to a text for them. And of course, the greatest responsibility lies with the parents – both to teach their kids about the dangers of distracted driving and be good role models by never driving distracted.