Should police be able to look at your phone after an accident?

Laws banning or restricting cellphone use and texting while driving are not stopping people from engaging in these risky behaviors. Consequently, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is having his Traffic Safety Committee look into new technology that would tell police whether someone was using their cellphone before an accident. Not surprisingly, there is already concern about whether this technology—the textalyzer—would violate people’s civil rights.

Under current law, law enforcement typically has to have a search warrant to look at a cellphone. While the manufacturer claims that the textalyzer would not reveal the content of texts or calls, many people still feel like this is a dangerous idea.

Is fighting distracted driving worth a possible civil rights violation?

There is no doubt that distracted driving, which is often caused by texting, talking or otherwise using smartphones, is a real problem. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving caused the deaths of nearly 3,500 people in 2015. In addition, 391,000 people were injured by distracted driving accidents that same year.

It’s important to remember that it is not just the distracted drivers who are at risk. Their passengers, other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians are often the victims of distracted driving accidents.

Still, it’s not an easy issue balancing people’s civil rights with potential dangers. And if New York adopts the textalyzer, will other states follow? 

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