FARMINGTON — Representatives from local and state law enforcement agencies say they will have no trouble enforcing the state ban on texting while driving, which went into effect on Tuesday.
The law prohibits a person from reading or viewing a text message, or manually typing on a handheld mobile communication device while driving. The state allows an exception for contacting medical or emergency help.
The definition of a "text message" makes the law easier to enforce, said Farmington police Sergeant Dave Monfils.
According to the statutes, a text message includes "electronic mail, an instant message, a text or image communication and a command or request to an internet site."
"It pretty much covers everything," Monfils said. "Let's say you are updating your Facebook, 'Hey, I just passed this crash, click.' Well, you are breaking the law."
Other states have had difficulties enforcing texting bans.
Law enforcement agencies in states including Iowa, Indiana, Georgia and Kentucky have passed laws banning texting while driving, but have had trouble enforcing their laws because of the specific wording of the law.
An Indiana State Police Master Trooper told Indianapolis television station Fox 59 in May that the state's law was too specific, prohibiting only the sending of text messages and emails while driving. The language of the law made it so that officers had to prove a person was texting to issue a citation, the master trooper said. Fox 59 reported that since Indiana's texting ban went into effect in 2010, only 186 citations have been issued.
Monfils said he doesn't expect New Mexico to have the same problem. The state's definition of "text message" gives the law its teeth, he added.
The statute does not ban talking on the phone while driving, but local ordinances in Aztec and Bloomfield prohibit the activity.
Bloomfield acting Chief Marlin Wyatt said the city's ordinance banning cell phone use while driving went into effect about two years ago.
"It has been good for us," he said. "Our results have been real good. More driver attention than inattention."
He said traffic accidents have decreased since the ordinance was passed, but its impossible to attribute that to any single change. He said the ordinance is mostly useful as an educational tool.
"We don't do a lot of ticketing, we do a lot of education," he said.
State Police Lieutenant Emmanuel Gutierrez said officers have to see the cell phone being used to pull a person over for texting while driving, but he does not believe that will be hard to find.
"When I was in Albuquerque yesterday, I saw several people holding up their phone at intersections," he said. "If people are going to be sneaky about it, sure, that makes it hard, we don't have x-ray machines, but that is not usually the case."