Distracted driving is a problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that more than 391,000 people were injured in distracted driving accidents in 2015.
Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration has said there were 53,878 traffic crashes involving at least one distracted driver in Maryland from 2008 through 2012. Fatalities occurred in 229 of the accidents, while injuries resulted in 19,790 of the accidents, Maryland’s MVA has reported.
Recent studies are beginning to show that distracted driving, which involves activities such as texting while driving, is just as dangerous a drunk driving.
In Maryland, distracted driving is a crime. Maryland is a “hands-free” state, which means that drivers are not allowed to use handsets while driving, which includes texting while driving.
Not a breathalyzer, but a textalyzer
To crack down on distracted driving, politicians in New York and several other states are contemplating allowing police officers to use a device similar to a breathalyzer.
A New York lawmaker has introduced a bill that would allow law enforcement to use a “textalyzer” to determine if drivers were using their mobile devices while driving.
The device would be used by police officers who suspect that a driver has been texting while driving using procedures similar to those currently in place for drivers suspected of driving under the influence.
The proposed law states that “every person who operates a motor vehicle in the state shall be deemed to have given consent to field testing of his or her mobile telephone and/or personal electronic device for the purpose of determining the use thereof while operating a motor vehicle.”
The bill allows for field testing of mobile telephone and portable electronic devices used while driving if an accident occurs.
People who refuse to turn over their cell phones or other mobile electronic devices for a “textalyzer” check after an accident could see their driver’s license suspended.
By connecting a cell phone or tablet via a cord to the textalyzer, law enforcement would be able to know what apps were open and in use with a time stamp. The device can show the time when a phone was swiped or clicked.
Just as a breathalyzer can help determine whether alcohol in a person’s system played a part in an auto accident, the textalyzer can help police officers and prosecutors determine whether a driver’s texting played a part in a traffic accident.
Similar proposals are reportedly under consideration in Tennessee, New Jersey, and Chicago.
The bill was prompted by the 2011 death of a young man in an accident involving a distracted driver. Phone records obtained through a civil lawsuit revealed that the driver had been texting before the accident.