ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It’s not always easy to spot people breaking one of New Mexico’s newest laws.
On Friday, News 13 got an up-close look at what police are looking for and how they’re busting for people texting behind the wheel.
“I’ll be 10-8. I’ll have one 10-12 en route to I-25 for patrol, 10-4?”
It’s another day on the clock for New Mexico State Police Officer Dean Carroll.
“Being out on the road, that’s the best part of my job,” Carroll said.
The 12-year veteran patrols both I-40 and I-25 near Albuquerque.
“She’s eating while driving, no law against that.”
“There’s my speed and there’s the speed of the vehicles coming up,” Carroll said, pointing to his radar. “We have some of the best equipment in the state.”
But not even the best equipment can spot texting and driving. It takes a sharp pair of eyes and quick thinking.
“If the vehicle is in motion and they’re looking down and we can see the device in their hands, which sometimes is pretty easy, then we can stop them,” Carroll said.
It isn’t always that easy, though.
“10-4 it’s going to be Mary Nora Charles,” Carroll said, radioing dispatch.
Thirty minutes into our ride along, Officer Carroll pulls someone over in Bernalillo.
“Yeah, that’s why I’m stopping you, ok?” Carroll said to the woman he spotted on her phone. “It’s a new state law.”
The state’s texting while driving ban went into effect July 1st.
“She’s going to go ahead and pay the fine because she admitted she was texting on the phone.”
Getting nabbed will cost you $82 for the first offense. That number includes court fees.
About 10 minutes later, Officer Carroll makes another stop along Highway 550.
“Are you aware you went off the road? Because I saw you behind me,” Carroll said to the driver of a white Ford truck.
“She said she was texting.”
Carroll says the driver didn’t think $25, the cost of the citation itself, was high enough.
And then just a few minutes later, what appears to be another driver texting.
“Let’s see if she’s doing it again. There she is, looking down.”
Officer Carroll pulls up right next to her, catching her red-handed.
“Hi, ma’am, I’m Officer Carroll with the State Police. I’m going to have you pull off to the side over here.”
“I was parked,” the woman replied speaking out her passenger side window. “I thought that was OK.”
“No, it’s not OK,” Carroll responded. “You can’t text.”
Being stopped, whether at a light or a stop sign, is no excuse.
After a two hour trip, and three citations, Officer Carroll heads back to Albuquerque.
He has one final reminder.
“Nothing is worth crashing, getting hurt, injuring someone else, injuring yourself,” he says.
Everyone Officer Carroll pulled over admitted to texting while driving.
Officers can’t search your phone for a text they would need a warrant to do that.
KRQE News 13 asked State Police how many citations they’ve issued in the week and a half the ban has been in place. They couldn’t get us exact numbers, but say over the Fourth of July holiday, they wrote eight tickets.
Albuquerque also has a texting ban. APD says it has officers specifically out looking for people breaking that law.