NM lawmaker proposes state texting ban

SANTA FE (KRQE) — Correction: In the broadcast version of this story, News 13 reported 11 states have bans on handheld use of cell phones while driving. The number is actually 10 states plus Washington D.C. The print version has the corrected information.

Texting while driving can turn deadly.

That's a message studies and PSA's across the United States have tried to convey over the last several years.

It's convinced lawmakers in 39 states to pass statewide texting while driving bans. New Mexico is not on that list, but not for lack of trying.

There have been four major attempts at texting bans since 2009. There were two tries that year, one in the Senate and another in the House. Each passed one legislative body before dying in committee in the other.

A 2010 attempt never made it to a floor vote after it was merged with a similar bill in the Senate. A 2011 bill proposed by Rep. Antonio Lujan (D - Las Cruces) passed 58-7 in the House, but never got a vote in the Senate and died before it could get to the Governor's desk.

"I think one of the things that people get hung up on is the penalty provisions," said Sen. Peter Wirth (D - Santa Fe).

Lawmakers have haggled over how much a fine should be and what should constitute a misdemeanor versus a felony when it comes to texting while driving.

So Wirth is trying again with a more streamlined approach this year.

He's pre-filed SB 17 for the 2013 session, a proposed law that would make it a traffic misdemeanor for anyone caught texting while driving. That would lead to potential penalties of up to a $300 fine and/or 90 days in prison.

"The key thing here is to have a base level violation in the traffic code so that everyone understands this is conduct there's simply no excuse for," Wirth said. "Getting something on the books is critical."

Wirth hopes pre-filing the bill and a unanimous interim committee endorsement will help the bill get through the legislative process.

A spokesperson for Governor Susana Martinez says she'd sign a statewide texting ban if it gets to her desk.

Although 39 states have texting while driving bans, just 10 states plus Washington D.C. have state bans on handheld use of cell phones while driving.

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New Mexico (change)

New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.
Offices & Officials

Governor: Susana Martinez
Lieutenant Governor: John Sanchez
Attorney General: Gary King
Secretary of State: Dianna J. Durán

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