U.K. drivers were startled by local reports that police would be inspecting mobile phones of all those involved in crashes, seeking evidence of distracted driving. Despite the Big Brother creepiness, the story wasn’t entirely outlandish, given that the transportation secretary recently called the toll from texting and handheld mobile use “absolutely appalling” — and vowed to look into doubling the demerit points vs. violators.
Yet, despite the reports in several daily newspapers, including the Daily Mail, it wasn’t true. Suzette Davenport, who heads the Association of Chief Police Officers’ road policing, issued a statement saying “it is not now, nor will it be, standard practice to seize phones from drivers after every collision.” Davenport had been sourced as issuing the policy.
“At no point have I issued guidance to officers to seize (the) mobile phones,” said Davenport, who is Gloucestershire’s chief constable. U.K. police do routinely examine mobile phones of those involved in serious crashes when distracted driving is suspected.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that police did not have the authority to seize and search the cell phones of those arrested for crimes, a pro-privacy decision expected to have a chilling effect on roadside examination of mobiles in the States.