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Textalyzer check of phones may be adopted for car accidents

In New York City and the state of New York, it is illegal to use a mobile telephone while driving. This includes for talking or for texting. Not only are there fines for violating the law, but points can also be added to one's driver's license record. The license can ultimately be suspended if the threshold of points is reached. The law is designed to prevent an increase in car accidents caused by distracted driving due to the use of digital devices.

One man who lost a son to texting and driving is spearheading a legislative effort to strengthen the current law. He is supporting a proposal currently being considered by the New York Assembly and Senate to initiate a "textalyzer"  procedure to check a driver's cell phone for activity that occurred just prior to the occurrence of an auto accident. The bill will not criminalize the use of cell phones prior to an accident, but one could lose one's driver's license for repeat violations.

Privacy rights groups oppose the bill, arguing that it is an intrusion into a person's private affairs. They say that it would violate the expectation of privacy that would normally exist in such a context. The so-called Breathalyzer for texting, nicknamed the textalyzer,  is a device that police can plug into the driver's cell phone to get a report on the recent usage of the phone.

The textalyzer is an attempt to further strengthen the anti-texting bans that exist in New York and 45 other states. Statistics show an inordinate increase in car accidents and traffic deaths in the past several years. The company that makes the device says that it will only detect whether the person was using the digital device just prior to the accident. For plaintiffs who are injured by a driver who was texting and driving in New York City or elsewhere, evidence of the tortfeasor's texting will be a significant evidentiary support that will likely lead to higher settlements and recoveries against distracted drivers.

Source: startribune.com, "Distracted driving counter-punch: Grieving dad wants cops to check phones at crash scenes", Anna Gronewold, May 14, 2017