The state will review the technology and "constitutional and legal issues" before considering it for police departments.New York has announced plans to explore "textalyzer" technology that could someday allow police to quickly determine if a driver had been using their cellphone before a car accident."Despite laws to ban cellphone use while driving, some motorists still continue to insist on texting behind the wheel -- placing themselves and others at substantial risk," said Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The state claims 12 people were killed and 2,784 were injured in "cell phone crashes" from 2011-2015, citing an Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research study. During the same period, 1.2 million tickets were issued for cellphone violations.
The governor's office has not explained how, exactly, such technology will be able to determine if a cellphone has been used by a driver in the moments before a crash. Authorities can already obtain cellphone records with a warrant to determine if calls or text messages were sent from a driver's cellphone in such scenarios.
It will likely prove difficult to sort other forms of data. Many messaging apps and satellite navigation utilities both use a phone's mobile Internet connection rather than traditional SMS text-messaging networks. A 'textalyzer' will need to distinguish if data transmissions coinciding with a crash were related to an outgoing Facebook message or if their Waze app was simply communicating with servers for navigation guidance. Such distinctions raise questions over privacy and warrantless searches of mobile devices.
The state promises to review "constitutional and legal issues associated with the implementation and use of such technology" before moving forward toward widespread implementation.
"We want to make sure we consider all the impacts of the technology carefully to best ensure public safety and effective enforcement of the law," says New York DMV executive deputy commissioner Terri Egan.