A New Jersey lawmaker says police should be able to use “textalyzers” to test the cell phones of drivers involved in serious crashes.
New Jersey drivers who refuse to hand over their cell phones would be subject to penalties in procedures similar to those used on suspected drunken drivers who refuse to have their breath tested.
“Policymakers and road-safety experts are reaching back to tried-and-tested strategies to treat distracted driving like drunk driving, and we need to do the same here in New Jersey,” said Codey, left, a longtime sponsor of distracted driving legislation.
Under Codey’s S2297, refusing to surrender a cell phone for a field test to see if it was in use at the time of the wreck could result in license revocation for up to one year and fine of $300 to $500 (doubled in school zones). Serial offenders would face tougher penalties.
“While the bill imposes strict penalties for refusal to surrender a phone or device, it does not allow a field test to be conducted forcibly or against physical resistance by the driver,” a Codey press release stated.
If we are going to deter people from continuing to use their phones while driving, we have to implement and enforce stricter measures. If you know your phone will be scanned to see if you were using your phone while driving, and that you will be subject to hefty penalties and lose your license, you simply won’t do it.
As with the New York plan, no specific content or images would be accessed by the law officer. A scanner for cell phone field tests is “under development by at least one company.”
Israeli firm Cellebrite reportedly is developing the scanning technology, dubbed the “textalyzer.”
“More must be done, and this bill is one step forward in that direction,” Codey said.
The New York legislation is from Assembly member Felix Ortiz and state Sen. Terrence Murphy.
New Jersey and New York have some of the nation’s most fully developed sets of distracted driving laws.
Codey has several distracted driving bills in the hopper for 2016, including a plan to hike the fine for a first distracted driving offense from a minimum $200 to $250 with a 90-day license suspension. Serial offenders would face $1,000 fines and a loss of license for a decade. Codey also is backing a plan to bar drivers from texting while stopped at lights and stop signs.