ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — A New Mexico lawmaker thinks people caught speeding or running red lights on traffic enforcement cameras should be treated like other drivers caught breaking the law. He thinks those tickets should count against a driver’s license and insurance.
It’s no secret: speeding is a problem in Albuquerque and around the state.
“There’s a culture of speeding,” said one Albuquerque resident, “the normal course of traffic is speeding.”
It’s an issue State House Representative for Bernalillo County Miguel Garcia has been trying to fight for almost twenty years, and now he’s trying again.
“What I am introducing now in this session is what I introduced back in 2005 because it is imperative that this generation of deviant and defiant violators of our traffic laws assume some accountability,” Garcia said.
He said just having civil fines from traffic enforcement cameras isn’t doing enough to change driver behavior, “You don’t do that by just slapping them on the hand with a little fine that may not get paid ever. We do that through a system that’s tied to a violation of Motor Vehicle Code, which is a misdemeanor,” Garcia explained.
House Bill 22 would allow local governments to treat the citations like real traffic tickets.
“This would have consequences if you do not pay the fine or if you get a lot of fines. It would have consequences in terms of your license, driver’s license renewal, and it would also have consequences in terms of the auto insurance,” Garcia said.
“It allows for local governments, municipalities, and counties to establish these automated traffic enforcement systems, and it could be a camera, and in this case, the camera would be placed at a red light in a neighborhood, main arterials in our residential areas for the speeders, and also at school crossings where we have chronic violators,” Garcia stated.
Representative Garcia said this bill only pertains to automated traffic systems within residential areas, at red lights, and at school crossing zones.
“This is totally residential, and not the freeways and major kind of highways, state highways. It’s essentially kind of a localized initiative that really will enhance quality of life,” Garcia said, “This generation of deviant and defiant violators basically need to be held to the highest bar, to the highest standard; and in this case, you know, making it a misdemeanor under the Motor Vehicle Code with consequences.”
Garcia explained that he thinks it’ll change drivers’ behaviors because it’ll impact the privilege a driver has.
However, one Albuquerque resident told News 13 he’s not convinced this is the way to go, “I don’t think you’re gonna stop them with a misdemeanor penalty.”
The law would also require an actual police officer to review the evidence produced by the camera before the ticket is sent out; something Albuquerque already does.
“We know, for a fact, that there is a workforce issue, not only in law enforcement agencies but up and down state government and even local governments. So, naturally, this would be a very viable tool in the toolbox for law enforcement agencies to kind of deal with that workforce shortage that they’re experiencing,” Garcia stated.
News 13 reached out to the Albuquerque Mayor’s Office and Albuquerque Police Department for comment on this proposed legislation since it could impact the way the city must handle these fines.
The city responded with a statement: “The City is exploring ways to ensure civil penalties for traffic citations are appropriate and lead to positive behavior change that adds to the success we’ve already seen from the Automated Speed Enforcement program.”
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Rio Rancho Police Department also responded in a statement:
“The City of Rio Rancho Safe Traffic Operations Program (STOP) abides by the New Mexico state statute regarding automated traffic enforcement systems. The current fine is $100 per violation. More information is available at the following link: https://rrnm.gov/1584/STOP-Safe-Traffic-Operations-Program. The City of Rio Rancho and the Rio Rancho Police Department will not speculate on the impact of pending legislation. However, should the law regarding automated traffic enforcement systems change, the City and Police Department will operate in accordance with state statute.”
The legislative session starts on January 17.