According to recent National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data, there were approximately 391,000 injuries and 3,450 fatalities in 2016 that involved drivers who were distracted in some way. Agencies in several states are looking into a new gadget called the “textalyzer.” This device is capable of detecting if a driver that was involved in a crash was text messaging at the time. Anthony Beale, a Chicago Alderman, explained that the city is beginning to test it. The technology is produced by Cellebrite, a company based in Isreal.
States Currently Considering
The technology is actively being tested by agencies in New Jersey, Tennessee and New York. The Textalyzer could be a requirement that drivers involved in crashes must submit to—similar to a “breathalyzer” test. Those who refuse could potentially face fines, a license suspension, and additional penalties. Some civil rights activists have apparently expressed opposition to the device, which they believe may violate rights that are guaranteed by Fourth Amendment protections.
Privacy Rights & Concerns
In response to concerns relating to privacy, Cellebrite responded explaining that the content of all messages that are detected is not revealed. The device will not share contact information, pictures or any dialogue. Many law enforcement agencies recently have expressed frustration in their inability to accurately determine if a driver was texting prior to a collision. Harold Krent, of the Kent School of Law, stated that the Textalyzer would only be used when the driver has no passengers in the car. The reasoning is that defendants could simply insist that a passenger was the person that was texting at the time of the accident.
Distracted Driving Laws in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has a law that currently prohibits drivers from engaging in text messaging. The majority of U.S. states have adopted some similar law regarding text messaging. In Pennsylvania, drivers are still permitted to have phone conversations while operating a vehicle. Approximately 17 states have laws restricting drivers from engaging in phone calls. The current penalty for texting is a $50 fine in Pennsylvania. Many states have comparatively adopted far more stringent penalties.
Distracted Pennsylvania Woman Sentenced to Imprisonment
Rachel A. Jaszemski was accused of being distracted by a mobile device when she struck a motorcyclist in Rostraver and then fled the scene. The rider suffered significant injuries after she struck him and he was violently knocked off of his bike. She was accused of engaging in text messaging at the time of the accident. Jaszemski claimed that she was not aware that she had struck the motorcycle at the time. The court handed down a sentence of nearly two years in jail.
Local Enforcement & Potential Civil Liability
In Snyder County, law enforcement has ramped up efforts to enforce laws preventing drivers text messaging. The local police chief said that they have been allocating grant funding to prevent the injuries and fatalities that can result from distracted driving. Statewide, there are approximately eight drivers charged with some form of distracted driving each day. Accident injury victims are increasingly bringing civil personal injury claims to pursue compensation from distracted drivers across the country.