If you’ve been injured in a car accident in the State of New Mexico, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we’ll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, use the section number provided under each law to search the New Mexico Compliant Commission website.
Here are the New Mexico car accident and traffic laws we’ll cover:
Pedestrians and Crosswalks
The driver of a vehicle must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian has reached the halfway point of the crosswalk, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the crosswalk as to be in danger.
Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways
No pedestrian must enter any marked or unmarked crosswalk when traffic is so close that it might constitute an immediate hazard.
Pedestrian Control Signals
Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words “Walk” or “Don’t Walk” or the symbols of a walking person or an upraised palm are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:
- Walk or Walking Person. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
- Don’t Walk or Upraised Palm. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian’s crossing on the Walk or Walking Person signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don’t Walk or Upraised Palm signal is showing.
- Pedestrians shall obey instructions on any traffic-control device specifically applicable, unless otherwise directed by a police officer.
Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks
Pedestrians intending to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
Pedestrians must use only the marked crosswalk to cross between two adjacent intersections that have traffic-control signals in operation.
Pedestrians on Roadway
Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway. Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it’s shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Drivers to Exercise Due Care
The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver’s horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or obviously confused or incapacitated person.
Pedestrians Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any obviously confused or incapacitated pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver’s horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution.
Obedience to Traffic Control Devices
A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.
Driving on Right Side of Roadway
Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:
- When passing another driver in the same direction
- When there is an obstruction in the right lane
- Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
- Upon a roadway divided into three (3) marked lanes for traffic
Passing On the Left
Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane.
Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Limitations on Overtaking on the Left
Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without coming within one hundred (100) feet of oncoming traffic.
Also, the overtaking vehicle must not try to overtake in the following situations:
- When approaching a crest or curve the obscures its visibility of oncoming traffic
- When approaching within one hundred (100) feet of an intersection of railway crossing
- When the view is obstructed upon approaching within one hundred feet of any bridge, viaduct or tunnel
Passing On the Right
Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:
- When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
- When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
- On a one-way street where the roadway is free from obstructions and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles.
Following Too Closely
A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is “reasonable and prudent”, having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway.
A driver who is towing another vehicle must leave at least three hundred (300) feet of space ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices
Drivers must not drive while using a reading, viewing, or typing text messages on a handheld device, except for the sole purpose of calling emergency services.
Drivers and Intersections
When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver in the right.
Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections
A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway
A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other vehicles on the roadway to be crossed.
Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
All motorcyclists under the age of eighteen (18) must wear helmets while riding on roadways.
Motorcycles and Headlights
Every motorcycle riding on a roadway must have at least one (1) and no more than two (2) headlights.
Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements
Any driver 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 is guilty of careless driving.
A driver who drives in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Alcohol and Minors
A driver under the age of eighteen (18) must not drive upon any roadway after drinking any amount of alcohol.
Driver’s Duty to Give Information and Render Aid
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person, including other drivers, passengers, and/ or passersby must give their name, address and the registration number of the car they are driving and must upon request, exhibit their driver’s license information to any person injured in the accident, or to the drive or passengers.
Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death of any person must immediately stop and remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Section 66-7-203.
Section 66-7-203 reads in part that the driver must give their name, address and the registration number of the car they are driving, and must upon request exhibit their driver’s license and insurance information to any person injured in the accident or to the driver of the car involved in the accident.
Section 66-7-201 and Section 66-7-203
Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property
A driver involved in an accident resulting only in damage to property or another car which is driven or attended by any person must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Section Section 66-7-203.
Section 66-7-202 and Section 66-7-203
Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car or Unattended Property
A driver who collides with a parked car or who collides with other property which is unattended must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must attempt to locate and notify the driver or owner of the damaged car or damaged property.
Once located the driver who caused the accident must give their name, address, and the registration number of the car being driven.
If the driver or owner of the damaged car or property cannot be located, the driver who caused the accident must attach a written note to the damaged property in a conspicuous place giving their name, address, the name and address of the owner of the vehicle, and a description of what occurred.
Driver’s Duty to Notify Police Department
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or total damage to all property resulting in $500 or more must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police office, and within five (5) days after the accident, forward a written report to the department of transportation.
If the driver is not physically able to give notice and forward a written report, and there was another occupant in the vehicle during the accident, the occupant must give notice to the police and forward a written report.
Section 66-7-206, Section 66-7-207, and Section 66-7-208
Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments
To obtain an accident report filed by the New Mexico police departments, visit the Department of Public Safety website.
Open Alcohol Container Law
A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage or consume a controlled substance while the car is traveling on New Mexico roadways.
An opened alcoholic beverage container can be kept only in the trunk of a vehicle, in an area not usually occupied by passengers, in the living quarters of a motor home, in a truck camper, or in the bed of a pickup truck.. It cannot be kept in the utility or glove compartment.
Passengers of a hired vehicle can consume and possess an opened container if there is a barrier that prevents passengers from passing containers to the driver.
Section 66-8-139 and Section 65-2A
Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways.
In New Mexico, a driver is guilty of the offense of driving under the influence of an intoxicant if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or higher.
Ignition Interlock Device
A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant must have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver’s driving privileges during the pendency of the driver’s probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.
An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver’s body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge.
At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
New Mexico Dram Shop Law
New Mexico has a modified Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.
A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.
Under New Mexico law, it is a violation of the liquor control laws for a social host or a commercial establishment to serve alcohol if the server is intoxicated, if the person buying was apparently intoxicated, or the person buying was apparently buying alcohol for someone else who was apparently intoxicated.
However, the law stops there. Even if a social host or a commercial establishment is found to have violated the liquor control law, they are not liable for the actions of the intoxicated person.
For violating the liquor control laws, such as knowingly providing alcohol to a minor or selling alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, a social host or a commercial establishment can be fined, and the establishment may lose its liquor license.
For an injured third party to succeed in a claim for personal injuries or property damage against a commercial establishment or social host, the injured third party must file a lawsuit alleging negligence by the establishment or the social host.
While presenting a case in court, the injured third-party may cite the violation of liquor control laws by the establishment or the social host.
Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits
In the State of New Mexico, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:
- At least $25,000 per person
- At least $50,000 for two (2) or more people
- $10,000 per occurrence for property damage
New Mexico Insurance Information
For more information about auto insurance, see the New Mexico Department of Motor Vehicles.
Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
In New Jersey, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim’s liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.
If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident.
If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie’s lane and their cars collided.
Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.
After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson’s car crashed into Melanie’s. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.
Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.
The verdict stated Jackson’s negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.
In the event the jury had found Jackson’s negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.
Comparative Negligence: Section 41-3A-1
Right of Way: Section 66-7-329
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 66-7-374
New Mexico’s Fault-based Car Insurance
In New Mexico, car owners purchase fault-based car insurance. The driver at fault in an accident must pay the expenses of the victim of the accident.
For more information about fault-based car insurance in New Mexico, visit the Department of Motor Vehicles website.
Statute of Limitations
New Mexico has a four (4) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must file a lawsuit within four (4) years after the accident.
Small Claims Courts
In New Mexico, victims of car accidents can sue the negligent driver in small claims court. To submit a claim in small claims court, visit the New Mexico State Judiciary website.
New Mexico Government Tort Claims – Sovereign Immunity
In New Mexico, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees. The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties.
If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.
If Melissa, an engineer with the Roswell Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Roswell would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused her.
If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Roswell can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.
To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.
New Mexico places the following caps on the maximum that can be claimed against a government agency or its employees:
- Two hundred thousand ($200,000) dollars for property damage
- Three hundred thousand ($300,000) dollars for medical expenses
- Four hundred thousand ($400,000) dollars for all other damages, exclusive of property damage and medical expenses
A government tort claim must be filed against the governmental agency responsible for the car accident within two (2) years after the accident. A minor under the seven (7) years of age can file a claim until their ninth (9th) birthday.
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