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.