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New York considers “textalyzer” technology to fight distracted driving

It is no secret that distracted driving is a growing problem, contributing to a significant amount of serious car accidents in New York. But unlike drunk driving, which can be identified using a Breathalyzer, it has been difficult to prove distraction in motor vehicle accident cases – until now.

New York legislators are considering a bill that would require motorists to hand their phones over to law enforcement after collisions. The phones would then be scanned to determine whether drivers were calling or texting at the time of the accident. This “textalyzer” technology would not reveal the content of any conversations – just whether the phone was in use at the time of the accident.

The bill is called “Evan’s Law” after a 19-year-old driver killed in a 2011 crash. While the other driver was never charged, later evidence suggested he had used his phone at some point during the drive.

What Evan’s Law could mean for drivers

If the bill passes, it would be easier for law enforcement to identify distracted driving and hold offenders accountable. It could also become much easier for people injured in accidents to prove which driver was at fault and collect appropriate compensation. The government has a vested interest in protecting people and minimizing distracted driving.

However, opponents of the law call it a serious invasion of privacy. Many have compared it to a warrantless search, which is prohibited by the Fourth Amendment.

Is mere phone use enough evidence to charge someone with a crime? Or to hold them liable in a personal injury lawsuit? Those are the issues lawmakers must decide. The New York Senate transportation committee approved the bill 16-2, but the entire Senate has yet to vote.

Technology’s growing role in court cases

Despite the best efforts of legislators, the law has always lagged behind technology. Lawmakers have had to adapt to the birth of the telephone, advancing automotive technology and, of course, the rise of the Internet. This scramble to adapt has led to many creative uses of technology in court. Social media activity, emails and even deleted Snapchat photos have been used as evidence in courts.

Recently, a Canadian woman used her fitness tracker as evidence in an injury claim. The tracker’s data showed that her physical activity was noticeably affected by a car accident, which strengthened her claim for compensation. 

How do you feel about Evan’s Law? Is there a way to balance public safety with privacy rights? Sound off in the comments below, or share this post to continue the conversation.

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