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Textalyzer May Become New Tool for Detecting Distracted Drivers

Published October 13, 2016 by Scott Gottlieb, Injury Law Attorney
Female texting while driving

Texting while driving is a big problem these days. Any small distraction that takes a driver’s focus away from the road can potentially cause a crash.

To address this issue, legislators in New York are attempting to put a new solution to a new problem by equipping police officers with a device called the Textalyzer that helps determine if a driver involved in a collision was texting while driving. Proponents say that the technology at the center of the proposed Textalyzer bill would allow police officers to determine if the phone was being used while driving without giving officers access to the contents of emails or texts.

Distracted Driving Car Accidents on the Rise

Early estimates from the National Safety Council show that the number of motor vehicle fatalities in 2015 was 8% higher than in 2014, which is the highest year-to-year increase in 50 years.

The Department of Transportation and other agencies estimate that some of that increase is due to people traveling more miles, but according to Mark Rosekind, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) chief, texting while driving is unfortunately only increasing. According to NHTSA and the Department of Transportation, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2014.

NHTSA also reports that distracted driving accidents are most common among drivers from age 15 to 19. Ten percent of the drivers from 15 to 19 years of age in fatal crashes were reported to be distracted at the time of the crash.

New York’s Current Legislation against Distracted Driving

Current legislation in the state of New York prohibits drivers from using a handheld mobile phone or portable electronic device while driving. This includes:

  • Talking on the phone
  • Sending, receiving or reading text messages or emails
  • Browsing webpages or playing games
  • Taking, sending or viewing pictures

If you are caught using a portable electronic device while driving, except for contacting emergency services, you can be ticketed and fined, and may be charged a surcharge. A conviction on a “texting while driving” violation will result in points on your driving record.

A device such as the Textalyzer would be able to prove if someone was using their phone or portable electronic device while driving. The hope is that making it easier to catch offenders and fine them would be a major way to change drivers’ behavior, making people less likely to text while driving.

Potential Hurdles

Although the authors of the bill say that they based the Textalyzer concept on the same “implied consent” legal theory that lets police officers administer a Breathalyzer test, some suggest that there are constitutional concerns at play in allowing officers to “search” someone’s phone without a warrant.

According to a unanimous 2014 Supreme Court ruling, police cannot search a cellphone without a warrant, even after the owner of the phone has been arrested. Others are concerned that the bill will be an invitation to police to seize cellphones without warrants. 

What Kind of Compensation Can I Get If I’m in an Accident Caused by a Distracted Driver?

If you were injured in an accident involving a motorist who was texting while driving, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The amount of compensation you receive for your injuries will depend on the severity of the injuries and may be reduced by the proportion of responsibility you may share for the accident.

The types of compensation you may receive include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent disability
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Lost wages 

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

If you have been injured in a texting and driving accident, we can help. If you try to handle insurance claims and compensation for your injuries on your own, you will likely not achieve the results you are hoping for. Our office has years of experience negotiating with insurance companies and getting results for clients. You can sleep easy knowing that we’ll take care of all the details while you focus your energy on recovery. Call us today.

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