LAS CRUCES – It’s a dubious honor for New Mexico to be ranked near the top of this independent U.S. survey.
For the second consecutive year, New Mexicans made the Top 10 list of worst drivers in America, according to an annual study conducted by carinsurancecomparison.com, a website that allows people to compare insurance companies and the rates they charge. This year, New Mexico’s drivers are rated the sixth-worst in the nation. A small consolation is the state was ranked second a year ago.
“Not much of a surprise,” said Las Crucen Clifford Morales, staring at passing vehicles as he filled his Dodge pickup with gas Wednesday. “It’s crazy out there (on the roads), and it keeps getting crazier. People either don’t know how to drive or they’ve got no regard of safety for themselves or others.”
Motorists in Texas and Louisiana are tied as the worst drivers, according to the study. South Carolina, North Dakota and Delaware are ranked ahead of New Mexico, and Nevada, Alabama, Arizona, and Montana follow New Mexico.
The study ranked states in five categories: fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled; failure to obey traffic signals, use seat belts or driving with an invalid license; drunken driving; speeding; and careless driving. Of those five categories, New Mexico drivers were considered the worst in the U.S. for careless driving, sixth for fatality rate, 11th for drunken driving; 17th for speeding, and 36th for failure to obey.
Last year, New Mexico ranked fifth in careless driving and as the 10th-worst state for drunk drivers.
Las Crucen Gretchen Torres said cellphone use was the biggest contributor to careless driving in the state. While Torres expressed her concerns Wednesday, drivers of two vehicles passing behind her were on their cell phones.
“Something has got to be done,” Torres said. “Nobody is paying attention to the law, but a lot of people are sure in a sue-happy mood if they get crunched in a crash. People just don’t seem to care.”
New Mexico’s Distracted Driving Law, which prohibits text messaging while driving, went into effect on July 1, 2014. Fines are $25 for a first offense, then $50. Ordinances banning text messaging while driving are also in effect in Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Silver City, Gallup, Taos and Española.?
However, state law does not prohibit cell phone calls while driving, especially if the driver is using a hands-free device.
“They should just outlaw anybody from using a cell phone if they’re driving,” said Las Crucen Julie Ochoa.
However, numerous concerns about doing that have been raised by some residents who have told elected leaders prohibiting cell phone use could also prevent them from conducting business.
“I agree there are a lot of careless drivers, I don’t know that an all-out ban on cell phones is the answer,” said Las Crucen Gina Taylor, who owns a small business. “Some people need and use that phone for their livelihood; it’s important to them.”
Las Cruces police are aware of the latest study.
“Obviously, one fatality is one too many,” said Dan Trujillo, LCPD spokesman. “The Las Cruces Police Department encourages the public to drive safely and with responsibility.”
Trujillo added Las Cruces police will continue to emphasize and enforce laws that require drivers to devote full-time attention while operating a vehicle.
“People need to understand they need to pay 100-percent attention,” Trujillo said. “That means driving safely.”
Steve Ramirez can be reached at 575-541-5452, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @SteveRamirez6 on Twitter.
BY THE NUMBERS
New Mexico drivers are rated the sixth worst, according to a study conducted by CarInsuranceComparison.com. The study assesses rankings in five categories with the ranking becoming a total score that is compared with other states;
New Mexico’s ranking include:
Careless driving: 1
Fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: 6
DrunkEN driving: 11
Failure to obey traffic signals, seat belt use, and invalid drivers’ license: 36
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