New York Senator suggests using a "textalyzer" to address distracted driving.

Kellam T. Parks
Managing Member of Parks Zeigler, PLLC

Distracted driving was responsible for more than 3,000 fatalities in 2015 and statistics suggest the problem is worsening. In a 2016 article from Forbes, distracted driving was referred to as an “epidemic.” Despite the fact that texting while driving is already illegal in 46 states (including Virginia, where it is a primary offense), lawmakers from some states are trying to take more direct action.

In New York, state senator Terrance Murphy proposed legislation to employ the use of a “textalyzer” at the scene of an accident to tell when a driver’s phone was last used. The inspiration for this legislation arose after the auto accident death of Evan Lieberman. The at-fault driver’s cell phone sat in his damaged car for ten days before Evan’s father subpoenaed the phone records and discovered the driver had been texting at the time of the accident. This legislation would further establish a legal context for the causal link between traffic accidents and cell phone use, as well as help establish an official protocol for addressing cell phone use at the scene of an accident.

Despite the intended claims of use by advocates of the bill, others have expressed concerns about privacy. The device will apparently only detect when a cell phone was last used, not how it was used. However, it remains to be seen how the device would discern between manners of phone use without access to more information. The burden of proof is substantial when trying to claim texting while driving; after all, cell phones can also be used for navigation and music streaming, which are both operative without constant user engagement.

Regardless of these questions, the fact remains that distracted driving is a problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting while driving is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. It stands to reason that more awareness campaigns need to be launched, and sensible legislation needs to be written in order to address this problem. For the younger generation of digital natives on the cusp of getting their driver’s license, phone use is habitual and habits are hard to break.

Remember - please practice responsible driving behaviors. The best remedy to this problem is the adjustment of one’s own efforts. If you find it hard to stay off the phone while driving, put your phone out of reach, engage Bluetooth voice commands, or silence it during your drive – those small steps could be the difference between an accident and safe arrival at your destination.

If you have any questions about distracted driving, or if you have recently been involved in an auto accident, please contact us. 

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