For many New Mexico drivers, wearing a seat belt is a daily ritual. It gets clicked into place before they even start their car. For others, the seat belt light will flash and beep for miles before finally deciding to buckle up. Unfortunately, for these people, driving becomes a game of chance, and the odds are not in their favor.
In fact, according to the New Mexico Department of Health, car accidents are the number one cause of death among drivers and passengers aged one to 24. The single biggest factor in preventing fatal car accident injuries is the use of seatbelts, and most importantly, understanding and obeying New Mexico’s seat belt laws. In addition to increasing your safety, adhering to the seat belt laws will help you avoid hefty fines and negative impacts on your driving record as well.
New Mexico Seat Belt Laws
Many states have non-primary seat belt enforcement laws, which means a vehicle cannot be pulled over simply due to non-compliance with state seat belt laws. An officer can only stop a vehicle for speeding, an expired tag, or another unrelated reason, and then they can issue a citation for not wearing a seat belt after the fact. This is not the case in New Mexico.
New Mexico is a primary seat belt enforcement state. This means, a vehicle and its occupants can be pulled over at any time simply for violating state seat belt laws.
In New Mexico, everyone in a vehicle manufactured with seat belts, including the driver and all passengers, must wear seat belts at all times whenever the vehicle is in motion, regardless of age or seating position.
That said, the law does not apply to absolutely everyone. The select few exempt from New Mexico’s seat belt laws include:
- Drivers or passengers in school buses, public transport vehicles, and authorized emergency vehicles
- Rural letter carriers performing an official duty
- People with certain special medical conditions
New Mexico also has primary child restraint enforcement laws in place to protect child passengers. This means a vehicle can be stopped on New Mexico roads if an officer notices children passengers who are not properly restrained according to the state’s child passenger safety laws.
New Mexico law requires every minor under the age of 18 to wear a seat belt or be properly restrained in a federally approved restraint device as follows:
- Children up to one year must be secured in the rear seat in a rear-facing child restraint system.
- Children one to four years old or weighing less than 40 pounds must be secured in a rear- or forward-facing restraint device.
- Children five to six years old must use a booster seat or appropriate child restraint device regardless of their weight.
- Children weighing less than 60 pounds must use a booster seat or appropriate child restraint device regardless of their age.
- Children seven to 12 years old must use child safety restraint system or seat belt if it fits properly.
If a vehicle lacks rear seats, children can sit in the front seat if the passenger-side airbag has been deactivated. While it isn’t a requirement of New Mexico seat belt laws, children should sit in the rear seats until the age of 13.
What Is the Penalty for Not Obeying New Mexico’s Seat Belt Laws?
If you do not wear a seat belt or use a proper child restraint device while driving in New Mexico, a police officer has the right to pull your vehicle over and issue a fine of $25. Along with two points on your license, additional fees may potentially also be assessed.
Subsequent infractions will result in increased fines and additional points on your license, which can lead to higher insurance premiums and a possible driver’s license suspension or revocation.
According to the points system used by the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Department, a driver’s license is automatically suspended for up to 90 days when a driver accumulates seven to 10 points within one year. If 12 or more points are accumulated within a one-year period, a license can be suspended for one full year.
Unlike some states, New Mexico does not allow drivers to reduce the points on their license by taking a defensive driving course. Points remain on a license for a period of 12 months, after which they are automatically cleared.
Have You Received a Seat Belt Ticket?
If you receive a ticket for violating New Mexico seat belt laws, you can pay the ticket and accept the points on your record, ignore the ticket and take the risk of receiving additional fines and license suspension, or dispute the ticket in the hope of getting it dismissed.
To dispute a New Mexico seat belt ticket, you must either prove reasonable doubt or pursue a due diligence defense in traffic court. Both approaches require a certain level of legal experience and skill in order to accomplish your desired outcome.
At Buckingham & Vega Law Firm, we want you to drive safely and make sure everyone in your vehicle is properly secured according to state law. However, if you were involved in an accident and not wearing a seat belt, do not hesitate to give us a call. An experienced car accident lawyer can help mitigate your risks and recover the damages you deserve if the other driver was at fault. Reach out to us today for a free consultation.