There's no question that New Jersey and neighboring New York have some of the more stringent distracted driving laws in the nation, as all motorists are forbidden from texting or using a handheld electronic device while driving. Indeed, both states classify these as primary offenses, meaning law enforcement can pull over motorists solely for this conduct.
While it's encouraging to see state lawmakers adopt such get-tough approaches, a growing number of people have questioned just how effective these laws really are.
They point not only to rising distracted driving fatalities, but also the fact that phone records must be secured via a search warrant in criminal cases, something which is not always easy to do given the need to show probable cause.
Furthermore, they point out that even when these phone records can be secured, perhaps through a subpoena in a civil case, they don't necessarily show things like email, social media or internet use.
In recognition of this reality, lawmakers in New York and New Jersey, and even major cities like Chicago, are now debating the rollout of a device known as the "textalyzer" in the near future.
While the device manufactured by the tech firm Cellebrite has yet to be fully developed, early versions have shown what exactly it will be able to do. Specifically, it comes with a cord that can be attached to a smartphone -- the owner doesn’t need to relinquish possession -- and, after about 90 seconds, it's display will show all of the apps that were in use and all of the screen swipes/taps that were made just beforehand.
"For example, if it was a WhatsApp message, or a call, it will indicate what the source was, the time stamp, and then what the direction of the communication was -- so if it was an outgoing call versus an incoming call," said the engineer behind the device.
Cellebrite indicates that textalyzer can be tailored to reflect the legalities of each jurisdiction and detect hands-free versus handheld use. As for the issue of privacy, it states that the device does not download content.
While New Jersey lawmakers have yet to take any definitive action regarding the textalyzer, a bill authorizing law enforcement to use the device is already circulating in New York. However, privacy advocates like the New York Civil Liberties Union have already vowed to fight it.
What are your thoughts?
If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one due to the reckless actions of another motorist, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and your options.