While today's motor vehicles are safer than ever, unfortunately today's drivers are also more distracted than ever. The proliferation of mobile technologies like smartphones and personal tablets have made it easier and more tempting than ever for drivers to text, check email or surf the web while driving.
Consequently, according to the National Safety Council, during the last three years, cellphone-related collisions have continued to increase and now account for more than 25 percent of all motor vehicle accidents. In an effort to crack down on cellphone-related crashes, most states have passed laws banning drivers from texting and many also have bans on using handheld cellphones while driving.
Last week, New York lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow police officers to use a device known as a Textalyzer to determine whether or not, in the wake of an accident, a driver was engaged with his or her cellphone.
If passed, the law which is known as Evan's law, would mean that a responding police officer could plug the Textalyzer into a driver's smartphone and access information related to any recent activity including calls, texts and internet searches to determine if a driver was using a smartphone and distracted when an accident occurred.
Much like a Breathalyzer, a police officer would not need a warrant to use the Textalyzer. It is not clear, however, whether or not a driver would have the legal right to refuse to hand over his or her cellphone. Additionally, the introduction of the bill has raised privacy concerns as it's unclear just how much information law enforcement would be able to access and how detailed that information would be.
While this law is currently being considered in another state, if passed, it's likely that other state, including Massachusetts, will consider similar measures. We'll continue to provide updates and more specific information about this bill if and when it is passed by the New York State Senate and Assembly.
Source: Fortune, "Forget the Breathalyzer, Meet the 'Textalyzer'," Don Reisinger, April 12, 2016