Unfortunately, drunk driving incidents are common on New Mexico roads. Many New Mexicans have felt the impacts of DWI incidents in their own lives or in the lives of people they know. Rio Rancho residents can easily recall the local arrest of a Cleveland High School assistant principal for driving under the influence in the fall of 2020. New Mexico ranked fifth in the nation for the states with the most deaths due to impaired driving in 2019. In January 2021 alone, there were five alcohol-involved traffic fatalities.
Punishments for DWI in New Mexico
To stem the tide of incidents caused by driving while intoxicated, New Mexico has enacted serious consequences for those convicted of a DWI. According to state laws, drivers with blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher are guilty of DWI. Although the effects of alcohol vary widely depending on the person, experts believe it takes about three drinks (12 ounces of beer, for example) an hour for a 100-pound person to reach a 0.08 BAC. A person weighing 180 pounds would likely need to consume five drinks an hour to reach a similar BAC.
Broadly speaking, DWI convictions can have both civil and financial consequences. Punishments may include jail time, fines, mandatory DWI educational programs, ignition interlock devices, and more. Victims of drunk driving incidents may also be entitled to civil claims such as wrongful death claims and personal injury claims, for example in the event of a spinal cord injury.
People convicted of DWI for the first time are subject to spending one year with an ignition interlock device, up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, up to 1 year on probation, 24 hours of community service, DWI School, listening to a Victim Impact Panel, and completing a substance abuse screening and required follow up on any recommended treatment. By the eighth offense, drunk drivers may be subject to three years with an ignition interlock, up to 12 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, five years of probation, and completing a substance abuse screening and treatment. DWI convictions may also lead to having your driver’s license suspended for 90 days to one year or more. In summary, the consequences escalate quickly for people who choose to drive drunk or under the influence of drugs.
How to Stay Safe
Despite these serious consequences, DWI offenses happen multiple times a day in New Mexico. Vigilance is critical while driving. It’s key to being aware of and protecting yourself from drunk drivers. Signs someone is driving under the influence may include:
- Quick acceleration or deceleration
- Weaving or zigzagging across the road
- Driving anywhere other than on a road designated for vehicles
- Almost striking an object, curb, or vehicle
- Stopping without cause or erratic braking
- Drifting in and out of traffic lanes
- Signaling that is inconsistent with driving actions
- Slow response to traffic signals (e.g., sudden stop or delayed start)
- Straddling the center lane marker
- Driving with headlights off at night
- Driving slower than 10 mph below the speed limit
- Turning abruptly or illegally
- Driving into opposing traffic on the wrong side of the road
If you notice someone exhibiting these driving behaviors, keep them in front of your vehicle. It’s safer to be behind them them, where you can continue to watch them. Keep your distance and don’t follow too closely. Take note of the vehicle’s make, model, color, and, if you can, the license plate number. If you’re traveling with a passenger, ask him/her to write the information down. If not, try to memorize the information.
As it’s safe to do so, pull over and call 911. The dispatcher will want to know the vehicle’s identifying information, as well as where you were when you spotted it and where it is headed. Include the name of the road you were traveling, as well as cross streets or a mile marker. If you don’t feel comfortable calling 911, you can also call New Mexico’s Drunk Busters hotline. You can call using the toll-free hotline, 877-394-4258 (877 DWI Halt) or the cellphone key #394 (#DWI).
If You’re in an Accident
If you find yourself in a collision involving a drunk driver, there are a few steps to take in the aftermath.
- First, call 911 immediately so police—and emergency medical services if they’re needed—can respond to the scene.
- If the drunk driver attempts to leave the scene, quickly gather as much evidence as you can. This may include photos of the crash scene and/or videos of the driver’s behavior, particularly if he/she is exhibiting signs of intoxication such as slurred speech, stumbling, or bloodshot eyes. Even though you may be tempted, don’t post anything on social media regarding the accident because posts can be used as evidence in your case.
- When law enforcement officers arrive, report your version of events. Be sure you have the responding officers’ card and/or know how to get a copy of the police report once it has been completed.
- Follow up on your own medical care. Even if you don’t need immediate medical attention leave the scene in an ambulance, you may have an injury. Only a medical practitioner can diagnose any effects from the crash. Follow up with your primary care provider within a day or two of the crash.
- Consider following up on your legal needs by locating a personal injury attorney. Don’t speak to the other driver or his/her insurance company. The other insurance company will try to contact you quickly to get a recorded statement, which they may use against you in your case. Instead, tell the company you have a lawyer. Your lawyer will then handle all communications with the other insurance company.
How Sanchez and Piñon Can Help
If you’ve recently been the victim of a drunk driving accident and are seeking a personal injury lawyer, contact Sanchez and Piñon, Rio Rancho’s auto accident and injury attorneys, for a free consultation. While other attorneys talk, we listen and provide a personal level of representation. We can discuss how to fight for the compensation you deserve.