New Mexico Legislature Approves Ban on Texting While Driving

Senate Bill 19 which gives police officers authority to stop and cite drivers for texting while driving their motor vehicle passed the New Mexico House by a near-unanimous vote of 62-1. As it already received approval in the Senate by a 37-5 margin, the legislation goes to Governor Martinez's desk for her expected signature.

If the governor does give her assent to the measure, New Mexico will become the 40th state - not to mention the District of Columbia, to have such a law. S.B. 19 provides that first offenders could be fined $25 for the offense and second time violators would have to pay $50. The law does not prohibit texting while parking. Nor does it permit a law enforcement officer from seizing the driver's cell phone in order to prove that the driver was texting during operation of the vehicle.   

Proponents of the law point out that a person who texts while driving is 23 times more likely to get into an accident than drivers who don't.  While the modest fines may not constitute a significant deterrent to drivers who struggle to refrain from texting while driving, drivers should recognize that the habit could make it more difficult to avoid liability if involved in a collision. Currently if someone is injured in an automobile accident, they can already allege the other driver's texting as a basis for that driver's negligence. However, this law may make it easier to establish that a driver's texting represents negligence on his or her part.

If the bill becomes law, a plaintiff in a personal injury action would have the chance to show that, as a texting driver violates a specific state traffic law, the action constitutes what is known as negligence per se. Plaintiffs and their attorneys will have a more secure route in proving the other driver bears liability for a collision if that driver is cited for the new traffic offense; conversely, insurance companies covering such a driver will be in a difficult position to deny personal injury liability.     

The attorneys at Giddens & Gatton Law, PC represent individuals involved in litigation of various types in New Mexico including personal injury cases. Giddens & Gatton Law, PC is located at 10400 Academy Road N.E., Suite 350 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Call the office at (505) 633-6298 to set up an appointment or visit the firm's website at giddenslaw.com.

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