New Mexico bill would eliminate many driver's license suspension rules

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The rules surrounding what infractions can result in a driver’s license suspension may soon change if a bill introduced in the New Mexicon Senate passes.

As it stands, New Mexico suspends driver’s licenses for non-traffic related infringements including unpaid fines, fees or failure to appear in court. More than 200,000 licenses were suspended for those two reasons alone during the last two years.

Senate Bill 7, introduced by the Senate Majority Floor Leader, Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, would eliminate those reasons for suspensions.

The current rules that apply to license suspension can lead to a poverty trap, according to Maria Griego, an attorney and director of Economic Equity at the New Mexico Center on Poverty and Law.

“It’s a real inequity problem because folks with the means can just pay off the fine or fee and be done with it, but for low-income families who are already struggling to make ends meet and support themselves, they can’t just immediately pay off these fines and fees,” Griego told The Center Square.

Removing an individual’s ability to drive severely hampers their capacity to work or hold a job. If an individual doesn’t pay a fine or fee and their license is suspended, it puts them in the really precarious decision of having to either drive on a suspended license or lose their job, Griego said.

“We know that 40% of people with driver’s licenses that are suspended end up losing a job,” she said.

Without a job, people can’t pay the fines and fees, Griego stated.

Not only would changing the rules help the economically disadvantaged within the state, but it could boost New Mexico’s economy.

“In Phoenix, they have data that showed that over 50% of people with licenses suspended lost their jobs, with a median decrease in income just over $36,000 a year, and restoring just 7,000 licenses that had been suspended increased their GDP by almost $150 million,” Griego said.

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