The “Textalyzer”: Making it easier to catch texting drivers
Smartphones have gone from novelty to commonplace over the last decade. Unfortunately, people texting and using social media while driving has also become commonplace. State legislatures across the country have passed laws barring texting while driving. These laws, however, have not had the intended impact. In fact, road deaths increased 8 percent in 2015, according to the National Safety Council.
In response, lawmakers in some states are escalating the battle against texting and driving. In New York, a bipartisan group of legislators is sponsoring a law that would allow police officers to use a new device, known as the “Textalyzer” after car crashes.
After an accident, police could use this device to determine whether the driver was texting, using social media or surfing the Internet while driving. Currently, law enforcement can get a warrant to get text records, and personal injury lawyers can subpoena phone companies for text records after an accident. The “Textalyzer”, however, would provide immediate feedback, similar to how a Breathalyzer works in a traffic stop for drunk driving.
Privacy concerns could pose obstacles for Textalyzer law
A device that quickly and accurately determines whether drivers were texting or surfing the Internet while driving could give drivers another incentive to put their phones down while driving. Many people, however, are concerned that a Textalyzer would infringe on privacy rights. In fact, in 2014 the Supreme Court unanimously held that the police could not search a cellphone without a warrant.
For these and other reasons, many believe that using a Textalyzer without a warrant would be unconstitutional. In response, proponents of the bill make two claims:
- A Textalyzer would not look at the content of a text, but simply whether the driver sent or received a text while driving
- State lawmakers could make the Textalyzer similar to “implied consent” drunk driving laws that are already on the books
The Textalyzer bill has not passed the New York legislature. Even if it such a bill were to become law, it would still likely have to face scrutiny from the courts. With this said, it will be interesting to see how lawmakers react to the texting and driving phenomenon in the coming years.
Any person who has been injured by a distracted or otherwise negligent driver should talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer. I am attorney Steve Crell. For decades, I have helped people across Indianapolis and beyond recover full compensation after an accident.
Source: Texting and Driving? Watch Out for the Textalyzer, New York Times, by Matt Richtel, April 27, 2016