Even if you, yourself, don't do it, there is a good chance you at least know someone who—whether it happens regularly or just once in a while—texts while driving. And no doubt you've heard the statistics: 25 percent of car accidents in the U.S. involve texting and driving, accidents caused by texting and driving result in over 300,000 injuries per year, the amount of time spent with one's eyes off the road increases by about 400 percent when texting and driving.
In response to sobering statistics such as these ones, new legislation has been proposed in New York that, if passed, would require drivers to give their cell phones to police after being involved in a car accident. CNN reports that the police would then be able to scan the phone in order to determine whether the driver had been making any calls or sending any texts at the time that the crash occurred. And if the driver refuses to hand over his or her cell phone? Well, then his or her license would be suspended.
The proposed bill is named "Evan's Law" in honor of Evan Lieberman, who was killed in 2011, at 19 years of age, by a distracted driver.
Calling it a "textalyzer" is no accident—it is meant to draw comparisons between the dangers of texting and driving and the dangers of drinking and driving. Ben Lieberman, a co-founder of Distracted Operators Risk Casualties and the father of Evan Lieberman, said, "When people were held accountable for drunk driving, that's when a positive change occurred. It's time to recognize that distracted driving is a similar impairment, and should be dealt with in a similar fashion."
Regardless of the similarities, some do not see this bill as a necessity in dealing with distracted driving. Records of phone calls and text messages are already kept by phone carriers and can be accessed if need be; it's not as though the information cannot be obtained if the driver is not required to hand over his or her phone.
Other objections claim that, although the bill would only allow for scans to determine the timing of the cell phone use (as opposed to looking directly at the contents of the text messages sent, for example), it is flat-out unconstitutional--especially given the Supreme Court's 2014 decision that police officers cannot search cell phones without a warrant.
The New York transportation committee approved the bill by a wide margin. However, the legislature in its entirety still needs to vote on it, so we'll see what other pros and cons surface when they do.