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NM’s traffic laws among strictest in the nation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A lead foot can lead to a big headache in New Mexico, according to one research group.

Wallet Hub, in a report published Tuesday, said New Mexico is one of the strictest states for speeding and reckless driving laws. Researchers said after analyzing traffic law in all states and the District of Columbia, they found New Mexico had the fifth-strictest traffic regulations.

The Land of Enchantment was the 10th-strictest state for speeding and the fourth-strictest for reckless driving. Neighboring Colorado ranked as the strictest state, and Arizona was tied for second with three other states.

New Mexico had the second-highest average increase in the cost of insurance after one speeding ticket, and the state also was tough for the amount of jail time reckless drivers face, according to the report. The report said a person caught driving faster than 25 miles per hour above the speed limit can get a reckless driving ticket, which can land a person in jail for five days for a first offense.

Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo, a spokeswoman for State Police, said the department always is focused on catching speeders on the state’s highways, interstates and other roads. She said enforcing speed limits can lead to reckless driving cases based on the circumstances. To charge reckless driving, she said, officers have to find evidence the driver was willfully breaking traffic laws.

“We definitely are constantly focused on speeding,” Armijo said. “We see so many crashes that involve speeding.”

However, Armijo pointed out that while the report found New Mexico to have strict laws, that doesn’t necessarily reflect the penalties passed down to drivers in court. She said, for example, that rarely do people get the maximum punishment for a reckless driving offense.

Traffic deaths on New Mexico roads through the first half of 2015 were down from the past two years, according to the University of New Mexico researchers. A UNM report indicated there were 128 traffic-related deaths during the first six months of the year, which was down for the same time period from 169 in 2014 and 135 in 2013, according to the university’s website.

“It is important to recognize where New Mexico excels at keeping our citizens safe while on the road; however, there is always room for improvement,” Aisha Smith, the director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in New Mexico, said in an email.

No one from Wallet Hub was available for an interview Tuesday.

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