‘Textalyzer’ bill could help police in distracted driving cases

New York lawmakers are debating a bill that would equip police with a ‘textalyzer’ to crack down on distracted drivers.

New York lawmakers are currently debating a bill that would allow police officers at the scene of a motor vehicle crash to quickly determine if drivers were talking or texting on their cellphones at the time of the accident, according to CNN Money. The bill would give police the authority to plug in a so-called 'textalyzer' device into a driver's cellphone to determine whether any calls or text messages had been sent recently. While the bill is controversial, road safety advocates say it could help cut down on distracted driving accidents by treating distracted driving similarly to impaired driving.

'Textalyzer' bill

The bipartisan bill, if passed, would equip police in the state with a device - nicknamed a 'textalyzer' - that scans metadata on a person's phone. The device would allow police to determine while they are at the scene of the crash whether a driver may have been texting and driving or talking on his or her cellphone at the time of the accident. The device would only allow police to see that a message had been sent or a call had been made; it would not actually reveal the contents of any calls or messages.

If drivers refused to submit to the 'textalyzer' test then their driver's license would be suspended, similarly to how drivers who refuse a Breathalyzer test are treated under current impaired driving laws. The bill is called "Evan's Law" after a 19-year-old who was killed in a possible distracted driving crash in 2011. The bill was recently approved by the New York Senate's transportation committee, although it has yet to be voted on by the legislature.

Threat of distracted driving

While the bill is controversial for the powers it gives to police, its supporters say it simply treats distracted drivers the way drunk drivers are already treated. Those supporters note that it was not until strict impaired driving laws were passed across the United States that drunk driving accidents began to decline dramatically. They hope that by treating distracted driving just as seriously as drunk driving that motorists will finally begin to realize the risk distracted driving entails.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that risk is severe. About one out of five motor vehicle accidents in the United States that led to an injury involved distracted driving in 2013, for example. During that same year 3,154 people were killed in distracted driving crashes and a further 424,000 people were injured.

Personal injury law

Distracted driving is a serious threat to all motorists and other road users. For those who have been hurt in an accident that may have been caused by a distracted driver, help is at hand. A personal injury attorney can assist accident victims, including by informing them of their legal options and potentially helping them pursue claims against the at-fault driver.