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Distracted Driving Laws and the “Textalyzer”

Distracted driving is a serious public safety concern in Florida. Florida, like the majority of states in the United States, has passed legislation that protects against all types of distracted driving, in particular, focusing on the use of cellphones while driving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that daily there are an estimated 1,161 injuries and 8 fatalities involving a driver who is distracted. Distracted driving is defined as visual, manual, or cognitive diversions that may lead to the endangerment of the driver’s life, his/her passengers, other drivers and pedestrians on the street. Visual distractions involve taking your eyes from the road, cognitive distractions take your mind off of the act of driving, and manual distractions result in a person removing their hands from the steering wheel.

Florida’s Ban on Texting While Driving Law

Florida, in order to counteract distracted driving, has in place a statute known as the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law”. The law dictates that an operator of a motor vehicle may not manually type or enter into any symbol, number, letter, or character into a device in order to communicate with another person. The law includes into the ban any type of texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging, as well as accessing any stored data or connecting to the internet while driving.

There are exceptions. According to the law, the ban does not apply to those operating motor vehicles who are:

  • reporting criminal conduct, suspicious behavior, or an emergency;
  • receiving messages related to navigation or the operation of the automobile or relating to safety, such as traffic and weather alerts; or
  • using wireless and handless devices where the technology or the device requires manual manipulation, such as voice activation software or talking on the phone with an earpiece; among other exceptions.

The Invention of the “Textalyzer”

The law has not contemplated new technology that may identify distracted drivers while in action. This technology, known as the “textalyzer”, which is in the process of being developed and brought out into mainstream commercial use, functions similar to a breathalyzer. The textalyzer would be maintained by police and brought out at the scene of an accident in the event that criminal charges may be brought. The textalyzer is able to evaluate a phone’s usage, rather than its content. In other words, privacy concerns are assuaged because the textalyzer is only able to evaluate whether the phone was used or not prior to the crash, rather than the content of communications sent back and forth. The technology would then require a warrant if police officials are interested in the content of the communications, as well as information on whether the use of the phone prior to the accident was hands-free or through dashboard technology.

“Implied Consent” and the Textalyzer

New York, which is the first state to consider this type of technology, would write into law an “implied consent” statute relating to the textalyzer. Similar to the breathalyzer, “implied consent” laws state that a person who decides to operate a motor vehicle is providing consent to be breathalyzed in the event that a police officer pulls over the driver with reasonable suspicion that the driver has been drinking. With the textalyzer, there would be implied consent that a person who operates a motor vehicle is giving consent to have their phone and other devices checked by the textalyzer for phone activity that led to reckless driving or accident.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Distracted driving and driving under the influence are extremely serious laws and have serious consequences for drivers pulled over for either of these offenses. If you or a loved one has been arrested for distracted driving or driving under the influence, it is important to speak with an experienced defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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