Traffic Tip Tuesday: Texting while driving

Today’s Traffic Tip Tuesday topic is the highly charged texting while driving ordinance. The following is the Farmington City Code regarding texting while driving:

Sec. 25-3-17. – Texting while driving.

(a) A person shall not read, view, type or send a text message on a mobile communications device while driving a motor vehicle, except in the operation of an authorized law enforcement or emergency vehicle as required by the driver’s official duties.

(b) As used in this section:

(1) Driving means being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on a highway or street, but does not include being in control of a motor vehicle that is legally parked;

(2) Mobile communication device means a wireless communication device that is designed to receive and transmit text or image messages, but does not include a global positioning or navigation system or a device that is physically or electronically integrated into the motor vehicle; and

(3) Text message means a digital communication transmitted or intended to be transmitted to a communication device and includes electronic mail, an instant message, a text or image communication or any command or request to an internet site.

(c) Anyone found guilty of violating this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $100.00 and not more than $300.00.

(Ord. No. 2011-1246, § 1, 6-14-2011)

The Farmington Police Department has taken a strong stance against all forms of distracted driving, including texting while driving. While we all see drivers who are obviously manipulating their cell/smartphones, proving what they are doing in court can be difficult. When enforcing the texting while driving ordinance, our officers have to be able to prove the driver was engaged in “texting” activity. This can be difficult because smartphones have other functions, such as navigation and playing music. Also, it is important for people to note that it is not illegal to use a cell phone to make calls without a hands free device under this ordinance.

So what is FPD doing?

Rather than being limited to citing for texting while driving, officers frequently issue citations for careless driving and prohibited acts while driving. The Careless Driving statute and Prohibited Activities While Driving ordinance, cover a much broader range of distracted driving concerns, which provides our officers an opportunity to contact individuals who are not giving their entire attention to driving.

The state statute of “Careless Driving” (66-8-114) states:

  1. Any person operating a vehicle on the highway shall give his full time and entire attention to the operation of the vehicle. B.   Any person who operates a vehicle in a careless , inattentive or imprudent manner, without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, weather and road conditions and all other attendant circumstances is guilty of a misdemeanor.  History: 1953 Comp., § 64-22-3.1, enacted by Laws 1969, ch. 169, § 12; recompiled as 1953 Comp., § 64-8-114, by Laws 1978, ch. 35, § 522. 

Farmington City Code “Prohibited Acts While Driving” (25-3-10) states:

No person shall:

(1)Drive a vehicle while engaged in any activity that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle.

(2)Drive while having in his lap any person, any adult, any minor or any animal.

(3)Drive while seated in the lap of another person while the vehicle is in motion.

(4)Drive a vehicle while having either arm around another person.

(5)Operate a motor vehicle’s equipment, including but not limited to the vehicle horn or lights, in such manner as to distract other motorists on the public way or in such a manner as to disturb the peace.

(6)Drive a vehicle while talking or conversing with an occupant of another vehicle, whether the other vehicle is parked or in motion. This subsection shall not apply to drivers communicating by radio.

(Code 1969, § 19-23)

Although officers can stop and cite an individual for these types of infractions, we would prefer to use this contact as an opportunity to educate citizens on what they can and cannot do as a responsible driver. Most importantly, FPD wants all drivers to give their entire attention to driving. Please avoid common distractions, such as using your cell phone, putting on makeup and eating while driving. Whenever possible, pull over to make a phone call. FPD strongly encourages the use of Bluetooth devices, which are integrated into many vehicles’ entertainment systems. If your vehicle does not have that capability, stand-alone devices are readily available for purchase from numerous merchants in Farmington.

Thank you and Drive Safe!

Snowbarger, MartinMartin Snowbarger has been a law enforcement officer for 18 years. He’s worked for the Farmington Police Department for 15 years and in Raton, NM for three years. Officer Snowbarger has been with FPD’s Traffic Division since 2003 and has been a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and Traffic Collision Reconstructionist for 11 years.