There is current legislation working its way through senate and assembly committees that would allow New York authorities to check drivers' cell phones for signs of distraction following a motor vehicle accident. These devices used to check cell phones have been defined as “textalyzer” devices, modeled after the breathalyzer. They can detect if drivers who were involved in motor vehicle accidents were tapping and swiping on their cell phones. The proposed legislation would impose penalties and license suspension if a driver refuses the scan.
Privacy advocates have expressed concern over the bill. However, the textalyzer device does not read text messages, and it would not download content. A police officer using the textalyzer would simply use a cord to connect the device to the driver's phone. The driver does not even have to let go of their phone. The device looks at metadata, which indicates whether a text message was sent, without extracting the content of messages or phone calls.
If passed in New York, the legislation would be known as Evan’s Law. 19 year old Evan Lieberman was killed in a 2011 car crash that was later found to be the result of distracted driving. The driver of the car Evan was an occupant of drifted over the center line and hit another vehicle head-on. It was later discovered that the driver of the vehicle that caused the crash had been texting behind the wheel. The driver initially told police that he dozed off while driving. It took Evan’s father 6 months to eventually figure out that the driver was texting. The textalyzer device would enable authorities in a case such as Evan’s to quickly determine what apps on a phone were open and in use, as well as screen taps and swipes.
Lawmakers are interested in the device in other states and cities as they consider ways to get drivers focused on the road.
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