New Mexico lawmaker looks to stiffen penalties for distracted drivers

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SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE)- Four times the fine. One lawmaker want to increase penalties for reckless, careless and distracted drivers. Though they may not have killed or hurt anyone, they could still end up in jail.

“One time I ran into the sidewalk, texting and driving, going 10 mph in the parking lot,” admitted Albuquerque driver Orlando Griego.

Even the New Mexico lawmaker who recently introduced a bill to deter distracted driving says, he’s done it.

“I’m guilty of it myself, I’ll freely admit it,” said Senator Steve Neville.

The Republican from San Juan County wants to stiffen penalties for those driving recklessly and carelessly.

“There’s not a lot we can do to make people do better,” said Neville.

But he wants to try.

“I think the distracted driving has gotten to be a big problem. I see it every day, driving through town,” Neville said.

He wants to, at least, draw attention to the issue by raising fines.

“No one’s going to take the law seriously unless they raise the fees,” agreed driver Louis Vasquez.

“I think when you raise a fine for anything, it raises the consciousness of society,” said Griego.

If passed, it would quadruple fines from $25 to $100 for a first reckless driving offense, when a driver puts others in danger. A second offense would jump from $50 to $300. Even jail time is on the table; up to 90 days for a first offense and up to six months for the second.

Careless drivers could rack up a $500 fine for a second offense. That covers those who text and drive.

“That’s still not enough,” said Vasquez.

“Not enough money,” agreed his friend, Roger Scarcliff.

For some, it’s a small price to pay for a potential, life saved.

“We don’t want to see them at the morgue with pieces of car embedded in them,” said one grandmother looking down at her two grandsons. “That’s what happens to people when they text and drive.”

For Neville, it’s personal. He says he proposed the bill for the daughter of a close friend killed in a motorcycle crash. The other driver was distracted behind the wheel.

The Albuquerque Police Department says these sorts of laws are often tough to enforce.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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