When his son died following a car accident in New York state in 2011—he was a passenger in a vehicle that "drifted over the yellow line" and collided with another—Ben Lieberman was amazed that police didn't review the driver's cellphone records. The driver said he fell asleep at the wheel, but when Lieberman sued for the phone records, "I saw texting throughout the drive and near the collision," he says. Since it can be time-consuming and expensive to subpoena records from a phone company or get a search warrant for a phone, police don't always do it. But things could soon change. A new bill proposed by Lieberman, which NPR calls "the most aggressive in the country," would allow NY officers to review drivers' phones after an accident to see if they were texting.
That doesn't mean police can access your conversations or photos. Lieberman is proposing "a breathalyzer for distracted driving," or "textalyzer," that would plug into a phone to tell police when it was in use. "It's just gonna show text in, text out," Lieberman says. "I don't think that you have to surrender all your privacy rights to get this right." But the New York Civil Liberties Union sees several problems: The device—under development by Cellebrite, reports the Huffington Post—wouldn't signal when a driver pulled over to use their phone. Plus, "there are so many ways in which somebody could be using the phone in a car that is not a violation of any laws," says a rep. "We seriously doubt that this bill is constitutional," adds a rep for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, per CNNMoney. The bill passed committee last month.