State lawmakers working on texting while driving ban

Posted at: 02/06/2013 5:15 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

State lawmakers are working hard to finally get a law on the books that will prohibit texting while driving.

Supporters of the legislation say it actually stands a good chance of passing both the House and Senate in the current 60 day session, and the word from the Martinez Administration is that the Governor will sign it if it makes it to her desk. If that happens, the dangerous practice could be punishable with fines.

Study after study paints the picture: your odds of getting into a wreck are 23 times higher when you're driving while texting. We all know it by this time, so why do we keep on doing it?

"I honestly text and drive but not as much as others, especially when I have my son in the car,' said Sara Austin while visiting the Capitol Wednesday. "But I do catch myself doing it sometimes and I do think it's really dangerous for us to do it."

"I do it really bad sometimes," admitted Tatiana Spears. "It's pretty bad.  When I see someone else doing it I'm like ‘Oh gosh why is that person texting and driving?’ It's so dangerous. But I do it myself sometimes."

The bill would allow judges to impose fines of up to $300 dollars for each offense, but if lawmakers tweak it a little bit the state could find itself on the receiving end of some big federal dollars for education and awareness programs for distracted driving. Basically the feds want states to impose a first time fine of $25, with gradual increases for subsequent offenses. That's what lawmakers are working on now with the House and Senate versions of the bill.

"The statistics and the studies show this is more dangerous than drinking and driving," said bill sponsor Sen. Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat. "That's the amazing thing. People just don't realize the consequences that can happen."

Talk about consequences - how about 7 people killed on New Mexico highways in 2009 as a result of cell phone distraction, and 21 others taken to the hospital with injuries.

The Senate bill could hit the floor for an up-or-down vote later this week.