By Lorri Ooley
At their most recent meeting, held Wednesday, Aug. 6, the Elephant Butte City Council unanimously moved to prohibit texting while driving within city limits, and followed up with unanimously imposing a $25 fine for first offenders and a $50 fine for subsequent offenses. This brings the city in alignment with the statewide ban that was signed by Gov. Susana Martinez in March, and was implemented July 1.
The city ordinance will go into affect beginning Tuesday, Aug. 12, and covers anyone who is driving a vehicle while on a highway or street, even while temporarily stopped due to traffic, a traffic light, or stop sign. Those who pull over and can safely remain stationary are excluded; additionally, the only exception for driving and texting are for summoning medical or other emergency help.
The ordinance further defines texting to include both receiving and sending of electronic mail, instant “text” messages, and image communications; the exception will be those who use devices that are operated hands-free, which allow for voice-operations to compose, send, and receive without the use of hands other than to activate the voice service.
While the city council received very few comments from the public, the general feedback that was given was during the establishment of the fines, in which the commentary centered on the amount. While the commentary was informal and without request of raising the fines, Mayor Eunice Kent clarified that the fines were following the state trend and not necessarily reflective of the city’s perspective on the issue.