Drivers increasingly believe that they can multitask while behind the wheel. From using a navigation system to eating to making a phone call, individuals constantly allow themselves to be distracted by tasks that pull their attention away from the road. The most dangerous example of a distracting task is texting while driving.
According to a Huffington Post article, 341,000 motor vehicle accidents in 2013 involved texting. Additionally, nine Americans are killed every day in accidents that involved distracted driving. These types of statistics are staggering and highlight the danger that drivers on the road face. Even if you as an experienced, aware driver are paying attention to your surroundings, it is not unlikely that another driver changing lanes or crossing an intersection is not focused on the road.
New York thinks they have a solution.
According to a New York Times article, proposed legislation in the state compares texting while driving to driving while intoxicated. Both situations prevent drivers from focusing on the road. A drunk driver loses cognitive function, has slower reaction times and suffers from blurred vision. A driver who is texting, manages to impact all three types of distraction – loss of manual control, loss of cognitive focus, loss of visual attention. As such, sponsors of the bipartisan Textalyzer bill say that police should be able to access a driver’s cell phone records to see if the phone was used in an illegal manner while driving.
Law enforcement wouldn’t be able to access sensitive material such as email, text messages or browser history. The Textalyzer device would simply read the phone’s records and indicate what the phone was used for.
Opponents of the bill suggest that it is a slippery slope that could, one day, lead to a devastating invasion of privacy allowing police to seize phones without cause or warrant. Proponents of the bill suggest that a huge step forward is needed as a preventative measure. The bill’s authors based the concept on the theory of “implied consent” that allows police to use the Breathalyzer. In short, when a driver obtains a license, they are consenting in advance to a Breathalyzer, or they risk serious penalties such as an automatic license suspension.