New Jersey Proposal Would Let Police Confiscate Cell Phones after Crash

Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report of a proposal recently introduced into the New Jersey Senate that would allow officers to confiscate driver’s phones after an accident. Officers would return the phone after looking through its recent history.

We know that texting and driving causes a significant amount of crashes in the United States, however, the exact number is exceedingly difficult to pin down. Drivers are unwilling to admit to being distracted so they are not blamed entirely for the crash. Officials are now trying to come up with ways to prove drivers were using their phones.

The New Jersey proposal was drafted to cut down on distracted driving, to warn residents that there are ways of proving their distractedness. Unfortunately, this proposal comes during a time of great social suspicion of government monitoring, as our national sense of privacy and vulnerability is shaken.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), for example, was among the first organizations to speak up against this proposal. A spokesperson for the ACLU told CNN that state and federal constitutions require probable cause before authorizing a search, particularly in areas that contain highly personal information.

Currently, 41 states prohibit texting while driving and 11 states ban talking at all on hand-held devices while driving. These laws, however, may not be strong enough. Officials and the public alike consider using “hands-free” devices in the car as a safe alternative to traditional texting and talking on the phone. This assumption may not be correct, as a recent study by AAA found.

The study was conducted by the AAA’s research unit, the Foundation for Traffic Safety, in conjunction with the University of Utah. Researchers focused on the mental distractions posed by using devices, examining brainwaves, eye movements, driving performance, and other indicators in 32 university students. Cameras were mounted inside the car to track eye and head movements while they engaged in a variety of secondary tasks, such as listening to music and sending emails. Drivers were also fitted with a skull cap to record their brain activity and reaction time.

As we know, synthetic voices (see: Siri) can have difficulty understanding human voices, requiring more attention and corrections. Additionally, the systems in vehicles are not nearly as sophisticated as Siri, and make far more mistakes in messages and calls, requiring even more concentration and precision. A simple demand to turn on windshield wipers, of course, would not be that distracting. Drafting an entire email or text, however, could be disastrous.

In recent years automakers have increasingly been implementing “infotainment” systems to allow drivers to use voice commands to do things like turn on windshield wipers, post messages to Facebook and Twitter, and even order food. According to this and multiple other studies, however, hands-free devices that translate speech to text are actually the most distracting of all modes of communication.

Speech-to-text systems are so dangerous because they monopolize the driver’s concentration. The act of driving requires not only your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel; it requires your full attention and concentration as well. The greater concentration required to perform another task, such as correcting an automated message, the more likely a driver is to develop tunnel vision or inattentive blindness, meaning they stop scanning the road and ignore side and rearview mirrors. Instead, they look straight ahead but fail to see what is in front of them, such as posted signs, pedestrians, and red lights.

There are currently about nine million vehicles on the road with infotainment systems, a number that will jump to about 62 million by 2018. Citing this statistic, the AAA believes that a safety crisis is looming in the United States. The agency hopes its study will change some widely (and falsely) believed misconceptions. It hopes to limit in-vehicle, voice-driven technologies

Auto accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge the driving public to review the study by the AAA and consider its relevancy to your daily life. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a car crash caused by the distractedness of another person, you have important legal rights. You may be entitled to significant compensation for past and future medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress.

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