Texting while driving in New Mexico is a huge problem locally and nationwide. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that millions of drivers across the country use their cell phones while driving. Obviously, this is very dangerous, as it is a form of distracted driving. Just as you shouldn’t take your eyes off the road to search on the floor of your vehicle for an item you dropped, you should never take your eyes off the road to read—or even worse, write—a text message. Simply put, if you are not watching the road, you are not paying attention. It only takes a second to miss the fact that traffic has stopped in front of you, or that a pedestrian has entered a crosswalk ahead of your vehicle. Texting while driving is a major cause of traffic crashes and, unfortunately, a major cause of fatal accidents, especially among younger drivers.
New Mexico Law of Texting While Driving
In New Mexico, lawmakers have taken a strong stance against texting while driving. The New Mexico law that prohibits texting while driving says that “no person shall read or view text messages or manually type on their mobile device” while they are operating their vehicle. This ban even extends to people who are stopped at a stop light. Even if your vehicle is not in motion, if the engine is running and you are operating your vehicle, you may not use your cell phone. This would include typing into any app, such as Spotify or Amazon Music, which is prevalent these days with a lot of drivers using their phones to stream music. The law does not apply if you have pulled off of the road (like into a parking lot) and have stopped your vehicle entirely while you take a call. The ban also does not apply to use of hands-free Bluetooth devices.
Civil Remedies If Injured by Texting Driver
The texting-while-driving ban is a criminal law, which means that penalties are assessed in traffic or criminal court for violating the law. The penalties are a $25 fine for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses. But the civil legal system also provides remedies for people who have been injured by texting drivers.
First, texting while driving is negligent. Just as a driver who does not stop fast enough and causes a rear end collision is negligent, so too is a texting driver who causes a crash. So a person who is injured by a texting driver can claim “compensatory damages” in a claim or lawsuit. These damages could include medical bills, pain and suffering, property damage, loss of enjoyment of life, lost wages, and future medical care.
Potentially Punitive Damages
But texting and cell phone use goes beyond standard negligence. It is criminal. All drivers know that it is a dangerous thing to do, just like getting behind the wheel drunk is a dangerous thing to do. And just like drunk drivers often think, texting drivers often say, “I am capable of paying attention while using my phone.” This is simply wrong. To use a cell phone while driving is not just negligent—it is reckless, willful, and wanton. In the law, this type of conduct is sufficient to allow the injured person to claim enhanced damages, or punitive damages. As we have discussed in previous blogs, these damages exist to punish the wrongdoer, and to send a strong message that their conduct was wrongful, reckless, and stupid. What punitive damages means to the injured person is that their case may be worth more than a standard negligence case. Only an experienced attorney like the expert team at Roadrunner Law can evaluate the individual facts of your case to determine the value of your case, and to tell you whether you are entitled to claim these special damages.
Watch our CRASH COURSE on Punitive Damages here.
Get Help From a Knowledgeable New Mexico Attorney
It is especially important to contact a lawyer right away if you have been hurt by a driver you believe was texting or using a cell phone, because unfortunately these cases can be very difficult to prove in court. Some cell phone usage is not easily traceable. For example, if someone was writing a text message but it had not yet been sent, it can be very difficult to prove the texting if the wrongdoer denies it. Also, it is not always simple to demonstrate that a driver was using an app or searching on the internet while driving. But an expert personal injury attorney like Heather Hansen or Eva Blazejewski has experience obtaining the proof necessary to prove these kinds of claims wherever possible. Our legal team has the resources to gather all relevant documents, subpoena records whenever relevant, and obtain statements from law enforcement at the scene to demonstrate and prove punitive conduct (texting, drinking while driving, road rage, drag racing or other reckless conduct).
If you or a loved one has recently been hurt in a New Mexico motor vehicle collision, you may be owed money from the wrongdoer’s insurance, or even from your own auto insurance. We can help. Call Roadrunner Law Firm today for your free consulation. (505) 444-4321.