Everything You Need to Know About New Mexico’s Texting and Driving Laws

In New Mexico, you can face a fine of up to $50 for texting and driving.
Written by Jason Tushinski
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
background
New Mexico
carries some of the least restrictive
distracted driving
laws in the country, including for texting and driving. While texting and driving is banned in The Land of Enchantment, you’ll only face a fine of up to $50 for a texting and driving offense.
Despite New Mexico’s light penalties for distracted driving, it remains a danger to drivers on the state’s roads. In 2017, it is estimated that one distracted driving incident occurred in New Mexico every 56 seconds.  That year, New Mexico recorded nearly 10,000 incidents of distracted driving.
So even if the state’s penalties are light, that doesn’t mean texting and driving is a smart thing to do (spoiler alert: it’s not). Property damage, severe injury, or even death can result from texting and driving.
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What are the texting and driving laws in New Mexico?

Even if the penalties for texting and driving are lenient in New Mexico compared to most of the rest of the country, it is still considered a primary offense, meaning law enforcement can pull you over and issue a ticket if they witness you texting and driving.
While
texting and driving
is banned, handheld use of a cell phone is permitted across the state, even if it is not recommended. Also, the use of hands-free mode is allowed in New Mexico.
Teenagers and novice drivers with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses are banned from using any electronic devices inside a vehicle, including ones in hands-free mode.
Even though handheld use of a cell phone is allowed in New Mexico, several cities have banned the practice within their local jurisdictions. Local laws must be respected when driving in the following cities, as they supersede state laws in those areas:
Texting and driving is banned in New Mexico because this act encompasses three types of distraction all rolled into one traffic offense:
  • Visual distraction: Your eyes are averted from the road to your phone
  • Manual distraction: Your hands are not fully engaged with the vehicle’s steering wheel
  • Cognitive distraction: Your attention is not fully on the road in front of you
MORE: Texting and driving laws, explained

What are the penalties for texting and driving in New Mexico?

If you’re caught texting and driving in New Mexico, you’ll be assessed a fine, but
points
will not be added to your driving record. Here’s how penalties are assessed in New Mexico for texting and driving:
Commercial drivers
face stiffer penalties for distracted driving: a possible lifetime disqualification from driving a commercial vehicle upon conviction.

Are there exceptions to New Mexico’s texting and driving law?  

Yes. The following are the only exceptions to New Mexico’s ban on texting and driving:
  • Text messaging is only allowed when it is used in the voice-operated hands-free mode
  • GPS use is allowed
  • Drivers can touch screens or devices that are physically integrated into the vehicle

Are there special rules about texting and driving for young drivers?

Yes. If it’s an emergency and a young driver needs help, they are allowed to do the following within the law:
  • Handheld cell phone use is permitted by teen, novice, or commercial drivers when medical or emergency assistance is needed

Can texting and driving raise my insurance premium?

It is possible. If you are pulled over by law enforcement and cited only for texting and driving, your insurers may not find out about the incident.
However, if your texting and driving/distracted driving caused an accident, injuries, or worse, your insurance premium will definitely rise—in New Mexico, the average insurance rate rose by 26%, or $433, after a distracted driving conviction. 
The best way to keep your insurance rate at a manageable level is to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes and attention on the road. Leave your phone in your pocket and don’t touch it until you have safely reached your destination and switched off your engine. 
Being distracted by a cell phone for only a few seconds can cause serious damage, injury, or death to you or another driver, not to mention driving your insurance rate up. It’s just not worth it.
MORE: How do driver violation points affect your insurance rates?
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FAQs

For one or two isolated texting and driving citations, you will not go to jail in New Mexico. However, if your texting and driving causes serious accidents and injuries, you could face more serious charges, which can include jail time.
Texting and driving is a serious offense. Even if New Mexico’s penalties aren’t as harsh as other states, one mistake can cause serious injury or death while being distracted while driving. The best thing you can do while driving is focus all of your attention on the road—leave your phone alone until you’re out of your vehicle.
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