Using cellular telephones while driving
Posted on Jul 7, 2010 12:00am PDT
Many stops are perfected by police officers for drivers failing to maintain their lanes of travel. I have to say that about a third of the driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases I see start with a simple traffic stop alleging a lane violation. Sometimes, drivers do not stay within their lanes when driving because they are talking or sending text messages on their cellular telephones. Under current law, this is legal in most of New Mexico.
Yes, it's true that people are driving and talking on their cell phones --some even sending text messages while they drive. Who cares? Everyone cares if the person cannot drive properly while doing so.
The Governor's office recently issued a press release letting us know that he'll seek a ban on driving while using a cellular telephone. People who do so would be guilty of a misdemeanor and be required to fill the state's coffers with $200 each occurrence. The proposal has been seen by some as an attempt to get some positive press, a new secret tax, and an enormous waste of time.
An old saying goes something like this: No one cares if a tree falls, but everyone cares if it falls on someone. The saying summarizes my views regarding using a cellular telephone while driving. Some people can pull it off. Some people can't.
What's important to remember is that there is already a law on the books that protects us from the people who can't use their cellular telephone and drive correctly. It's called careless driving: "Any person who operates a vehicle in a careless, inattentive or imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, corners, traffic, weather and road conditions and all other attendant circumstances is guilty of a misdemeanor." §66-8-114 NMSA 1978 (2009).
Make no mistake, I am not a fan of many people who drive while using their cellular telephones. Many of them drive too slow, delay in proceeding forward when the lights cycle, drive into your lane of travel, etc., etc. But, at the same time, there are an equal amount of drivers that can pull it off just fine. I don't see why the Governor doesn't just encourage the enforcement of existing law instead of proposing additional law.
I also believe that Albuquerque's City Ordinance that prohibits the use of cellular telephones while driving, as written, is unconstitutional. I've yet to have the opportunity to argue it, but I think it is poorly written, or at least it ignores that constitution thing. Who cares about that old worn out document anyway....
I had a discussion with a colleague yesterday about the proposed state-wide law and he argued that the Governor's office probably wanted to throw something into the press quickly to get New Mexican's minds off of his boating debacle. Some of you might remember that he was on a house boat in Elephant Butte this summer that wrecked into another boat. At least one person accused the boat's driver of being drunk. The governor reported that he was asleep during the accident --the accident having taken place at about 5:15 p.m. We should all be grateful instead of inquisitive: Early to sleep, early to rise keeps the Governor healthy and wise!