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Cell phone ban passes House

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By Susan M. Bryan

SANTA FE — Legislation that would prohibit drivers in New Mexico from using hand-held cell phones for talking or texting was narrowly approved by the House on Tuesday.

The bill would make New Mexico the seventh state to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Some of New Mexico’s largest cities — Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces — already have municipal ordinances that bar cell phone use for drivers.

Under the proposed statewide ban, violators would face a misdemeanor penalty of $25.

“I hold firm that this is a serious safety issue,” Rep. Antonio Lujan, D-Las Cruces, told the House before the 35-30 vote.

Critics of the legislation argued that the state already has laws that address distracted driving and that the use of cell phones qualifies as another distraction, like putting on makeup, eating a hamburger or tending to children in the back seat.

“It’s not just a cell phone. It’s a thought about where you’re going, what you’re planning to do next, daydreaming,” Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Farmington said. “The big problem we have is driver inattention. How do you really cure that problem?”

Critics also argued that it would be difficult to enforce and would be simply a revenue generator for the state.


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