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Auto Crashes & Cellphones — Nevada’s Novel Notion

Posted By Kim Legato, Tuesday, March 26, 2019


We all know that most states ban the use of handheld smartphones and texting while driving. The reason is because distracted driving is dangerous. Sometimes people die because of distracted driving.

However, as International Association of Chiefs of Police president and Buffalo Grove, Illinois chief Steven Casstevens says,“If you’re the at-fault driver and you cause the crash because you’re talking on your cellphone, you’re likely not to admit it.”

The Nevada Legislature wants to fix that. It is looking at passing a law that can allow police to use new technology to see if someone was using their phone when the crash occurred.

The device is called a textalyzer.

Police and other law enforcement officials say distracted driving is underreported and the punishment for drivers who text while driving is inconsistent and — often — not all that harsh. So drivers are not held accountable.

The advocate fighting to let police us the textalyzer is Ben Lieberman. His 19-year old son was killed in a crash by a driver who was texting. Lieberman is behind a failed push to enact a similar law in New York two-years ago.

As it stands now, no one is quite sure how the Nevada bill will turn out.

Lieberman says something needs to be done nationwide and that texting and driving needs to have a greater social stigma. “When I was growing up, drunk driving was a joke. Now it’s not a joke,” he told those in Nevada’s Legislature. “Device use is a joke. Make it so it’s not funny.”

The textalyzer was developed by the Israeli company Cellebrite. It has the ability to look for user activity like opening Facebook’s messenger, or the sending or reading of texts. What it cannot do — as opponents fear — is access or store personal content.

The device has not been texted in the field and has not been used by law enforcement. The Nevada bill — if passed into law — would be a much-needed field test.

The American Civil Liberties Union — and others — worry that such a law will violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It protects us from unreasonable search and seizure.

Lieberman says it does not violate anything. Other experts — he notes — say this law is minimally intrusive and does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Nevada’s bill originally had a piece in it that said drivers refusing to have their phones checked would immediately receive a 90-day driver’s license suspension. That quickly led to an amendment by the Democrats doing away with the automatic suspension and forcing police to get a search warrant.

Next up was Democrat Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo wondering if the legislation is needed anyway. Police can already get a search warrant to check phone use if they suspect texting or smartphone use was involved in a crash. 

“Wouldn’t it be better just to give this technology to (the police) and so that they can utilize it after they get the warrant already?” he said. “Nothing in this bill is actually new, ’cause the law enforcement (agency) already has the techniques and tools that we’re providing.”

Casstevens disagrees. He said the practice of checking for distracted driving is hit and miss, and is not a uniform practice among law enforcement officials nationwide.

The bill’s sponsor is Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow. She is a Democrat. Gorelow wants the police only to be able to see if — after a crash — someone has been using social media, texting, browsing the Internet or playing games.

“It’s like a Breathalyzer that only detects tequila,” Gorelow said. She does not want the technology to go much deeper than that.

The bill is being amended and so far these things have been taken off the table:

  Gone is the automatic suspension if a motorist refuses to turn over the phone

  Gone is the implied consent provision that makes it mandatory that drivers turn over their phones

  Added is the driver being able to refuse

  Added is if the driver refuses, the police must obtain a warrant

The bill also has been modified to say that the textalyzer can only be used in the event of a crash that kills someone or seriously injures them.

Weekly Industry News is curious about what you think of the bill.

  Should laws that require a cellphone check in the event of a crash be enacted?

  Would you like to see such a law in your state?

  Does it violate the intent of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

  Other comments?

Send your comments to Weekly Industry News Editor Gary Wolcott at garywolcott@piawest.com.

Source links: Associated Press, KOLO TV

Tags:  Insurance Content  Insurance News  Weekly Industry News 

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