According to federal officials, distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,179 Americans in 2014—and injured 431,000 more. There are even some studies that indicate this trend is getting worse despite new laws and campaigns to dissuade drivers from multitasking while behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the percentage of drivers visibly using handheld devices rose from 1.7% to 2.2% between 2013 and 2014. Speaking with the New York Times earlier this year, chief of the NHTSA Mark Rosekind said that distracted driving nationwide is "only increasing, unfortunately."
There is, however, a new legislative effort occurring in New York this year that would give law enforcement and injury victims the tools they need to hold distracted drivers accountable for their behavior. The law, known as “Evan's Law,” would allow police to monitor drivers' mobile phone activity with a device called a Textalyzer.
What Is A "Textalyzer?"
Developed by Israeli forensic software company Cellebrite, a Textalyzer is a device that will be able to detect if a motorist has been using their mobile phone while driving. If police officers believe that a driver is using their phone, they would be able to plug the phone into the Textalyzer to display a record or recent phone activity. If that activity falls into a window of time when the driver was behind the wheel and involved in an accident, the data will likely be used to prove negligence on the part of the driver.
As the name implies, the Textalyzer is intended to be used much like a breathalyzer is used to document an intoxicated driver on the scene. Proponents of the device say that the new technology could easily be covered in each state's implied consent laws—which compel driver cooperation and provide legal penalties for refusals.
The bill currently before the New York Senate, known as Evan's Law, would bring Textalyzer technology to law enforcement agencies all over the state. The bill is named after Evan Lieberman, a college freshman who was killed when a friend lost control of a vehicle while on his phone. His father, Ben Lieberman introduced the Textalyzer concept to Cellebrite earlier this year. Lieberman is also the co-founder of DORCs (Distracted Operators Risk Casualties), an advocacy group aimed at spreading distracted driving awareness.
New York lawmakers have yet to come to a decision about Evan's Law, but many see the need for an urgent change in how we reduce distracted driving accidents. This type of technology would also be a critical new tool for injury victims looking to substantiate negligence in an accident claim. As Candace Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) told the Times, distracted driving "is not being treated as seriously as drunk driving, and it needs to be... It’s dangerous, devastating, crippling, and it’s a killer, and still socially acceptable."
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