Car Safety in New Mexico

If you only think of New Mexico as an arid desert-like landscape, you may be in for a real surprise in your driving adventures, as the state is actually considered a Mountain state as well. As the 5th largest state, it has one of the largest scenic by-ways systems for drivers to enjoy and explore the state. With a low population, making these areas rural, you need to be sure of your travel plans before heading into these more rural and unpopulated areas.

Interstates and Rough Trails

Although one of the largest states in the union, because of its low population there are only 3 Interstates that intersect the entire state, making traveling on secondary roads a must in most of the state. I40 and I25 transect the state almost perfectly through the middle of the state from east to west and north to south respectively, while the I10 services only the extreme southwest of the state from Tucson in Arizona across to El Paso, Texas.

With almost 60,000 miles of state highways including State, US State and Interstate highways, there are innumerable paths and routes to explore in the vast state. However, only 1000 miles are Interstate roadways, making travel on secondary highways a must for most scenic travelling. With over 2900 miles of scenic miles across desert, mountain and plains, New Mexico offers a great diversity of driving conditions to explore. Being prepared before travel is must as most rural roadways are in need of repair and many devolve into rough trails in the most remote locations.

Mountains North, Desert South

Many Americans are truly not aware of the massive diversity of geography in New Mexico from the Rocky Mountains that dominate the northern half of the state to the large arid and semi-arid regions of the south; the state hosts a vast difference in its geography. Snowcapped mountains, heavily forested valleys to broken Mesas and rose-colored deserts provide a wide range of topographies. However, although one of the largest states it also has one of the least amounts of fresh water, with only 250 square miles of surface water in the state. This can play a large part when travelling rough in the remote areas of the state.

Since there is a vast difference in topography the climate of the state can also range widely across its regions. The Mountains and Alpine climates in the north can include temperatures that approach 40F whereas in the southern arid areas daytime lows generally only get as low as 64F. Whereas on the Great Plains in the eastern portion of the state hover somewhere in-between for temperature lows. Car safety in the state depends largely on where you are travelling, in what season and your intended purpose. Ensure you are prepared for the area and time you will be travelling in different regions in this vast state.

Pure Fault System

Being an “at fault” system with a pure comparative fault rule means that New Mexico accidents causing injury, death or property damage can become quite complicated in ensuring the proper damage awards. As you can claim through your own insurance, third party claims of the other driver, privately with the other parties or through the courts system there can be multiple ways to get award damages. The fact that the process may move through each of these processes as you realize the person at fault may not be willing to concede the same percentage of fault as you believe they have, results in longer negotiations.

If you are also at fault under this system, even by as little as 1%, it can be even more complicated for attaining settlements. If you were speeding, failed to have daytime running lights, did not put on your turn signal or a host of other small driving failures there is a good chance that you will share in the blame for the accident, even if the other driver hit you. This percentage, outside of a court room, is decided through negotiation. If you are well represented by an attorney you can be assured that this number is representative and fair of your true fault.

If you receive $10,000 but are found to be at fault for 20%, your award will be reduced by that percentage and you would only receive $8,000 of your total award. In a pure fault system, all drivers are essentially encouraged to ‘find’ fault for every party of the accident to reduce their own fault liability. This essentially makes the insurance adjustor settlements more complicated as well as civil suits for accidents.

Harsh Suspensions

Although all states ascribe to a minimum BAC limit of 0.8% for driving while intoxicated (DWI), in the state of New Mexico you can be charged under that limit if the enforcement officer feels you are impaired. This could because you appear to be intoxicated or impaired from drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs. This enables a portion of subjective application for enforcement.

The state imposes a harsh license penalization system including a full 1 year driving ban on your first DWI conviction and a lifetime ban on your 4th conviction. This may be in part due to the state’s history of having high DWI fatalities up until the new penalty system was put in place in 2009. Since then the fatalities has dropped significantly from almost a top 10 state to a range in the mid-20th state for DWI fatalities. Administrative and criminal penalties are separate and on top of each other. The best policy in the state is to avoid driving if you are at all impaired.

Traffic Violations

Traffic violations are also harsher in New Mexico with a mere 7 points in 12 months equating to a 3 month suspension while 12 points equal a full year driving suspension within the state.


Did You Know That…

1. New Mexico was once a part of both Spain and Mexico before being admitted to the US as the 47th state in 1912.

2. It is often thought of as a desert state but almost half of the state is Mountainous or part of the Great Plains.

3. With a Pure Comparative “at fault” system all parties are encouraged to find fault in the other.

4. With only 250 square miles of surface water it has some of the least water available of all states.

5. You can get a full license at the age of 16 and half years old.

6. New Mexico has the second highest percentage of Native Americans per capita in the US and 4th most of all states.

7. A One Year license suspension is given for your first DWI conviction.

8. There are more cows than people in the state of New Mexico.

9. Its name was given well before the country of Mexico was named, back in 1563.

10. Car insurance is mandatory in the state.

Read also:

Car Insurance in New Mexico
Driving Schools in New Mexico
Car Accident Attorneys in New Mexico