SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A statewide ban on text[auth] ing while driving takes effect Tuesday in New Mexico.
Under the new law, drivers are prohibited from sending or reading text message and emails — even while at a stop light or temporarily stuck in a traffic jam.
Motorists also will be banned from searching the Internet on smartphones or other hand-held wireless devices.
However, the law does allow a driver to pull over to the side of the road to send or receive a text message.
“This law will save lives and make New Mexico roads safer,” said Sen. Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat who sponsored the measure in the Legislature.
A first violation will carry a $25 fine, and it’s a $50 fine for subsequent violations.
“New Mexicans need to understand that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than drinking and driving,” Wirth said Monday. “If you have to look at your phone, pull off the road.”
The state previously prohibited texting by teenage drivers with a learner’s or provisional license. The new law extends the ban to all drivers.
New Mexico joins 43 other states and the District of Columbia in banning text messaging by all drivers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
There are exceptions in New Mexico’s law, such as sending a text message to summon medical or emergency aid. Drivers also can use a voice-operated or hands-free device for sending a text message.
The law doesn’t apply to navigation or global positioning systems in a vehicle.
Other new laws taking effect July 1 will:
— Increase the benefits for family members of firefighters who die in the line of duty. A surviving spouse or children will receive $250,000 from the state rather $50,000. Surviving parents receive the payment if there is no spouse or child.
— Remove the gross receipts tax from parts and labor for maintaining aircraft as well as the sale of commercial aircraft. Supporters say New Mexico will be competitive with other states that don’t tax aviation repairs and sales.
— Increase liquor tax revenue going to local drunken driving prevention programs for three years, providing an extra $2.2 million annually.
— Expedite the licensing of nurses who move to New Mexico from other states.
— Shore up the finances of pension plans for judges and magistrates, who will contribute more of their salaries into their retirement programs. Judges and magistrates taking office starting in July must work eight years to qualify for a pension rather than five years for those already in office.