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New York bill would have police scan your phone after a crash

You'd have to submit to a 'textalyzer' to see if texting led to your accident.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
April 12, 2016
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AP Photo/LM Otero

It may be relatively difficult for police to catch people texting while driving, but one proposed New York law would make it near-impossible to avoid detection if that distraction leads to a crash. A new state Senate bill would let police submit you to a "textalyzer" (basically, a device that scans for recent phone activity) after an accident -- you'd actually lose your license if you refused. Just as the Breathalyzer impacted drunk driving, the device would ideally help identify the cause of a crash and hold people accountable for dangerous behavior behind the wheel.

Privacy, as you might guess, is a concern. The Cellebrite-made technology involved in the law can't access the actual contents of your phone -- it can only tell whether or not you've been busy. Cops would still need a warrant to see if there really was an on-the-road conversation, in other words.

If the bill becomes law, it could serve as a better deterrent to the crowd that ignores distracted driving laws. However, it does raise some questions. How accurate is the technology, for example? Will it mistake background phone activity (such as notifications or uploads) for active use? What happens if you dispute the allegations -- will you have to consent to a detailed phone search? As good as the measure might be, it could lead to wrongful convictions if the technology is either imperfect or misused.

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