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April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Woman reads text messges on her phone while driving a car.

New Mexico has the highest distracted driving death rate in the U.S.

Nowhere in the U.S. has a higher fatal distracted driving car accident rate than New Mexico.

For every 1 million residents, there are more than 60 deaths due to distracted driving, according to data crunchers. This is five times greater than the national rate.

The preventable deaths emphasize the importance of this year's Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Every April, traffic safety advocates take time to refocus attention on this longstanding and growing problem.

Some New Mexico communities have taken the problem into their own hands. A handful of cities have passed stricter cell phone bans.

Distracted driving laws

New Mexico lacks many of the laws that other states have to discourage distracted driving. The main law to deter driver distraction is the state's ban on texting and driving. The secondary offense went into effect in 2014, and the maximum fine for a violation is $50.

Some states ban the use of handheld devices for anything but emergencies. Others place added restrictions on young drivers. There are states where the fines and penalties are more severe, too.

In Silver City, for example, local officials banned all use of handheld devices while driving and increased the fine for violating the law. Now, someone can be fined up to $500, according to the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Department. Other communities that passed their own distracted driving codes include:

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

New Mexico texting law

In general, New Mexico's texting law is simple: No one is allowed to use a handheld mobile device, like a smartphone or a cell phone, to send, receive, or view emails, text messages, social media posts, etc. while operating a motor vehicle.

Basically, the law allows drivers to use handheld devices to talk on the phone. Commercial drivers, however, may not use handheld devices while driving except for emergencies and to get travel directions.

Drivers who violate New Mexico's texting and driving law face a fine of $25 to $50.

Reduce the risk

Distracted driving accidents are preventable, but it takes a commitment from every driver to remain attentive and stay focused on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends the following to help prevent texting and driving:

  • If you need to read, write, or send a text, pull over in a safe place and park your car first.
  • Designate a car "texter" who is responsible for sending, reading, and replying to messages and phone calls for the driver.
  • If the impulse to scroll through social media or check messages is too strong, keep your phone in the trunk of your car, locked in the glove box, or another out-of-reach place where you cannot easily access it while driving.
  • Remind friends not to use handheld devices to communicate while driving. Staying quiet normalizes dangerous behavior. If the driver is texting, politely but firmly tell them to stop.
  • Set a good example for other drivers - especially young people. Teens who have parents that drive distracted are two to four times more likely to drive distracted themselves.

Hit by a distracted driver? Talk to an attorney to find out if you're eligible for financial compensation

If you were injured or a loved one died in a crash caused by a distracted driver in New Mexico, a car accident attorney can help you hold the at-fault driver accountable and fight for the compensation you're entitled to.

At Szantho Law Firm, we're not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the insurance company to get the outcome your case deserves. Attorney Andras Szantho is a legal warrior who can aggressively advocate for your best interests in settlement negotiations or, if necessary, in court in front of a judge and jury.

Discover what an experienced New Mexico car accident lawyer can do for you. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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