Governor Cuomo takes steps to crackdown on texting and driving in NY

New proposal would allow New York officers to use the Textalyzer to determine if a driver was using his or her phone before an accident.

Texting and driving is a dangerous practice that continues to plague New York. A recent press release from Governor Andrew Cuomo notes that New Yorkers continue to turn to their phones to check and send messages while driving, even though the practice is illegal.

How big of a problem is texting and driving in New York? 1.2 million traffic tickets were issued for these types of violations between 2011 and 2015. Cellphone use also contributed to 12 deaths and almost 3,000 injured in distracted driving accidents.

The Governor is taking a step towards ending this dangerous practice. In the same press release, he states that he is directing the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee to study a device referred to as the "Textalyzer."

What is the "Textalyzer" device? This device is a small, handheld device that plugs into a person's phone. It gathers information to determine if the phone was recently used to text, surf the Internet, send emails, etc. No details. The actual message sent in the text, the actual information shared in an email would remain private.

The device has received the name "Textalyzer" due to its similarity to the Breathalyzer. The Breathalyzer provides police with a relatively quick way to determine if someone consumed alcohol prior to driving. It does not tell the officer what the driver was drinking. The device simply confirms if alcohol was consumed. In the same way, the Textalyzer would simply confirm if the phone was in use prior to an accident.

Will Textalyzers become as common as Breathalyzers? New York lawmakers are currently considering a law that would allow for the use of these devices. Critics argue that such devices pose a potential violation of basic protections against unreasonable searches. The Governor states that the study should help determine if use of the device after a car crash would violate the driver's protection against unreasonable searches under the Fourth Amendment.

Current law generally requires officers to get a search warrant before examining a driver's phone. The new law could allow officers to gather information about the cause of the accident in a much timelier manner.

What does this mean for victims of distracted driving accidents in New York? Those who are injured or lose a loved one due to a car accident face many hurdles. First, they must deal with immediate needs, like medical treatment. Then, they must deal with any damage to a vehicle or work schedules that could be impacted by the injuries. Finally, continued medical care or rehabilitation needs must also be met. These all impact the victim's finances.

Victims have options. One is to hold the person responsible for the injuries accountable through a personal injury lawsuit. This can result in a monetary award to help cover these costs. An attorney can provide guidance and help to better ensure the victim gets the legal remedies he or she is entitled.