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If you drive, don’t use your cell phone

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By The Staff

SANTA FE — Hand-held cell phones and driving vehicles don’t mix, according to Governor Bill Richardson, who announced that he will introduce a measure banning the combination when the Legislature meets in January.

Richardson announced his intention to take the ban state wide for talking or texting  while driving with handheld cell phones. The ban would extend to hands-free devices for operators of public transportation including bus drivers.

“Driver distraction is a major cause of accidents, and the use of cell phones while driving is increasingly a problem,” Governor Richardson said.  “We’ve all seen drivers swerving around the road while talking on the phone and texting, putting the safety and lives of New Mexicans in danger.”

The statement by the governor’s office cited “multiple studies” that compare the driving impairment from cell phone use to driving while intoxicated.

A 2006 study conducted by the University of Utah concluded that “The impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk.”  Neuro-psychologist Dr. David Strayer, the study’s primary author, stated the study found that “the cell phone driver was in fact more impaired than that same person when they were drunk at a .08 level.”  

Thom Turbett, president of SafeTeen New Mexico, a public safety advocacy organization said people who use cell phones and drive are four times more likely to crash. “Technology has created a situation that is causing much greater risk to everyone who drives,” said Turbett.”

The proposed legislation makes violating the cell phone ban a misdemeanor and would carry a fine up to $200. It will include exemptions for emergency calls to and from medical, safety or law enforcement personnel.