New York Considers “Textalyzer” Bill to Cut Down on Distracted Driving

The New York legislature is currently considering a bill that would allow police to scan motorists’ cell phones in the wake of an accident to see whether they were driving distractedly. It would allow law enforcement to use a device to access cell phone data. The device can pinpoint whether a driver was texting or talking on the phone at a certain time. It can also show whether any apps were in use.

The device, which is not currently approved for police force use, has been dubbed a “textalyzer” because, like a breathalyzer to detect alcohol on a driver’s breath, it provides a method to ascertain whether drivers in an accident or driving unsafely were breaking the law. Use of a cell phone while driving is illegal in New York State.

New York’s law applies not only to texting and talking, but other potential cell phone uses while driving, such as taking pictures or playing digital games.

Distracted driving was responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,500 people on the nation’s roads during 2015. Texting and talking on cell phones while driving is a leading cause of distracted driving.

The proposed bill is also similar to a breathalyzer because refusal to submit to a data scan of one’s phone would also carry legal penalties, just as refusal to take a breathalyzer does.

Textalyzer opponents cite privacy concerns

While proponents of the bill argue that the textalyzer would make the nation’s roads safer, the bill has also generated some debate. Opponents cite concerns that the device would give police too much access to a citizen’s data, including information that might indicate law-breaking, but be completely unrelated to the incident that caused police to run a scan. They also argue that cell phone records can currently be obtained through other methods, such as a warrant or court order.

Proponents of the bill counter that existing legal methods of garnering cell phone data are time-consuming and cumbersome. The use of a textalyzer, they believe, would both enhance safety and serve as a deterrent to distracted driving.

The bill is currently pending in the New York legislature.

If you need a car accident lawyer

Edelman, Krasin & Jaye have years of experience litigating vehicle collisions in New York state. We can help you in any accident. But because distracted driving law is complicated, it is prudent to consult a lawyer if you or a loved one believe distracted driving is at issue. We will fight for a fair and just settlement.

Our initial consultation is free; we will discuss your case and what the next steps could be. Call 1-800-469-7429 for a free consultation with a seasoned New York City and Long Island car accident lawyer today.

Additional “textalyzer law” resources:

  1. King, Dan. “New York ‘Textalyzer’ Bill Threatens Privacy Under the Guise of Safety.” Observer, July 13, 2017.
  2. National Safety Council. Top Things Drivers are Doing That Threaten Traffic Safety.
  3. New York State. Distracted Driving, Talking, & Texting.