An Israeli company is developing a device that reveals whether drivers were texting at the time of their crashes, and New York state is considering a proposal to allow police to use the device to examine the phones of drivers after accidents.
The device, made by technology company Cellebrite, can report the exact time when the phone was swiped or clicked, but does not reveal the text of any messages sent or other content on the phone. Police could use the read out as evidence to seek a warrant to determine exactly what was happening on the phone at the time of an accident.
The New York bill to allow the use of the Cellebrite device, which won't be on the market until early next year, was approved New York's state senate committee on transportation, but is still pending in the finance committee. Similar proposals are under consideration in Tennessee, New Jersey, and the city of Chicago.
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 New York Civil Liberties Union and other privacy rights groups strongly oppose the proposed law. “Distracted driving is a serious concern, and that’s why we already have laws that allow police to access phones and phone records when they need to. But this bill gives police power to take and search peoples’ phones -- which contain our most personal, private information -- at every fender bender. We don’t yet know if Textalyzers can even detect distracted driving. But we are certain that enforcing this proposed law would violate people’s privacy and could potentially impute guilt for innocent activities," said the ACLU, in a statement.