New York wants to allow cops access to cell phones after crashes

Look out drivers: A New York assemblyman wants cops to be able to look at your phones to see if you’ve been texting while driving after an accident. Assemblyman Felix Ortiz tells The New York Times his Textalyzer bill would put the fear of, well, the state in the minds of drivers if they get a text whilst behind the wheel.

“We need something on the books where people’s behavior can change,” said Mr. Ortiz, who pushed for the state’s 2001 ban on hand-held devices by drivers. If the Textalyzer bill becomes law, he said, “people are going to be more afraid to put their hands on the cellphone.”

Here’s NYT’s description of what the Textalyzer would do.

It would work like this: An officer arriving at the scene of a crash could ask for the phones of any drivers involved and use the Textalyzer to tap into the operating system to check for recent activity.

The technology could determine whether a driver had used the phone to text, email or do anything else that is forbidden under New York’s hands-free driving laws, which prohibit drivers from holding phones to their ear. Failure to hand over a phone could lead to the suspension of a driver’s license, similar to the consequences for refusing a Breathalyzer.

My first response to this is, “Come back when you have a warrant.” I admit to falling prey to texting whilst driving, even though I know it’s a bad idea. Texting while driving is still a thing, even though plenty of states and municipalities have banned it, so the laws aren’t working because no one can regulate common sense. In fact, it appears texting while driving laws aren’t doing a lick of good. Indiana’s anti-texting law is unenforceable. Georgia and Wisconsin ran into the same thing in 2012. California had to do a massive crackdown in 2013 because they discovered even WITH their outright ban on texting and handheld phones, people were still doing it. So the free market took over. Via USA Today in 2013:

Several Chrysler models, including the Dodge Dart, can turn text to voice or allow drivers to read messages on dashboard screens. Drivers can respond with a few select responses, such as “I’m on my way,” says spokesman Eric Mayne. Some vehicles with higher end radios, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Ram 1500 pickup, can send more “free form cloud-based text messages,” Mayne says.

GM announced last month that 2013 Chevrolet Sonic and Spark vehicles with theChevrolet MyLink communications system can translate voice to text and text to voice for drivers with compatible iPhones with iOS 6. The company also plans to add 4G LTE WiFi in some 2015 models but hasn’t announced what commands will be voice-enabled.

This technology took a giant step forward last year, with Volkwagen’s new line of cars.

That’s with Google Android, but Apple has its own version called the CarPlay app. Don’t have a new car with all these bells and whistles? Good news! You can also buy receivers so you don’t have to go look at your phone while driving. It might not work with older model cars, but there are apps available which will silence text alerts. One thing I’d also like to point out is none of these articles mentioned state laws as a reason why car companies were developing this technology. It appears they (shockingly) just did it on their own because they *gasp* want to keep their customers safe and make more money!

The market is already making these changes, so why does the government need to get more involved in this sort of thing? Is it really about public safety or is it about power? If the government decides to do this Textalyzer, what’s to stop companies from deciding, “Fine, this technology is good enough,” instead of innovating and innovating, so we can text and drive without being distracted? It isn’t going to solve everything, obviously, but as the technology develops and companies start working together, there won’t be a need for the government to get its fingers into every pie (even if it “SAVES JUST ONE LIFE” as Ortiz’ ilk likes to scream). It’s not going to 100% solve the texting while driving issue, but as the technology gets better, driving will become more safe. The government doesn’t need to be involved in this at all. Let the free market figure keep figuring out, instead of the “ALL ENCOMPASSING STATE” getting access to my texts, calls, and emails. It’s better this way.

David Strom 7:01 PM on September 24, 2022