Legislation would increase penalties for distracted, reckless driving

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FLORA VISTA — Mrs. New Mexico Summer Jakino-Whistle hopes a bill before the state Legislature this session will help prevent distracted and reckless driving by increasing penalties for offenders.

Jakino-Whistle worked with Sen. Steve Neville, R-San Juan County, to draft Senate Bill 55, which will go to the Senate Public Affairs Committee and, if approved, to the Judiciary Committee.

"That might be the only spot where it might face a little opposition," Jakino-Whistle said in an interview on Friday, explaining that some of the committee's members are defense attorneys who may object to higher fines.

Jakino-Whistle said she encourages people to contact their lawmakers to voice support for the bill.

Neville could not be reached for comment.

Jakino-Whistle's father, Michael Jakino, was killed in a crash in September 2015 in Colorado. An investigation revealed a woman adjusting her radio in a pick-up truck crossed the center line and struck Jakino and his wife, who were on a motorcycle.

"They both flew off the motorcycle," Jakino-Whistle recalled.

She said her father died instantly and her mother, Robin Jakino, spent several months in intensive care at a trauma center in Denver. During that time, she underwent a series of daily surgeries.

Senate Bill 55 calls for increasing fines from $25 to $100 for distracted driving, including texting, using a cellphone and adjusting the radio.

It also calls for increasing fines from $100 to $500 for the first offense for reckless driving like drag racing.

Jakino-Whistle said she has been visiting with community groups and schools to discourage distracted driving. She said she avoids texting while driving, in part because she often has her sons with her in the car and wants to set an example.

"They watch everything I'm doing," she said.

She said that while some people claim drivers will always text and drive, that's not necessarily the case. She pointed out that when seatbelts were first required, not everyone complied. But nowadays nearly all drivers use seatbelts.

"If you just let the problem go, everyone will just be driving around reading," Jakino-Whistle said.

For more information, contact Jakino-Whistle at summerjakino@yahoo.com.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

New Mexico Senate Bill 55 by Daily Times on Scribd

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