SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The move to ban text messaging while driving gained momentum as the New Mexico Senate voted Thursday for the prohibition.
The House already has voted for its own version of a ban. Both bills bar composing, sending or reading a text-based message while driving.
According to the American Automobile Association, Washington, D.C., and seven states — Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington — have enacted such bans.
The House bill fines violators $25. The Senate bill, which passed on a 22-15 vote, includes a $100 fine.
“I brought this issue out of my own personal experience,” said bill sponsor Sen. Lynda Lovejoy, D-Crownpoint. “I have young adult children, and I have a whole slew of nieces and nephews, and when I travel with them it is very frightening when they use their text messaging.”
Lovejoy said although there is already a state law that provides penalties for inattentive driving and some cities have cell phone bans, a statewide ban would make the roads safer.
“It’s about a safety issue,” said Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Dona Ana. “You are totally distracted, whether it is a cell phone or texting.”
While opponents agreed text messaging while driving is dangerous, they argued a state law already exists to punish distracted driving, which happens in many more ways than just texting.
“I think there are a lot of things we could amend into this: shaving, putting on eyeliner, eating french fries,” said Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington.
The Senate-passed bill now heads to the House. The House-passed bill is pending in a Senate committee.
The same version must pass both houses to reach the governor’s desk for his signature.