back to article Would you let cops give your phone a textalyzer scan after a road crash?

Drivers in New York may have their phones and gadgets scanned after crashes to see what they were doing moments before a prang. Law bill SB S6325A, if passed, will allow police to check a driver's smartphone for activity when an accident occurs. Investigators could then determine whether or not a motorist was illegally using …

  1. Bob Dole (tm)

    Voted no, but the selectable reason for my no wasn't listed.

    I voted no because I have no faith in a police officer's ability to determine an exact time of crash and therefore be able to say, without a doubt, that a device was actually in use by the driver in the moments leading up to the event.

    I mean, how much leeway are they going to give? 1 minute? 10? And what if you received a call/text/email/whatever but didn't respond? Is that still potential jail time? Not everyone knows how to look at a phone and determine which side of the conversation the owner of the device was on. Seems silly, but is absolutely true.

    What if siri was somehow activated (easily done) and started to respond to your voice thinking that you wanted to text the misses or call the office?

    Heck, what if it's *your* phone but someone else in the car was using it? I know I often have my kids text/call my wife or look things up using my phone in the car. I doubt an officer is going to make that distinction.

    So, no. Not only no, but hell no.

    1. Steve Knox Silver badge

      Poll's broken

      Voted no, but the selectable reason for my no wasn't listed.

      Same here. But according to the poll:

      I have another reason (see comments): 0

      So something's broken.

      My reason? It's an unnecessary intrusion which will lead to bad statistics.

      They don't need to know your specific distraction to be able to determine the cause in most crashes, and damaged caused is the only logical measure of liability.

      Given the way these types of data collection need to be marketed, press releases will focus on the number (not percentage) of crashes deemed "caused" by texting while driving. Little to no context will be given, leading to an inaccurate picture of the actual prevalence.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't talk to police ever

        It's not about identifying the cause of an accident, the police officers role is to prosecute someone for it. Even if its just an accident, an unavoidable set of mis-choices between two people that clashed. If you make yourself an easier target for prosecution then you will be the one prosecuted.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc

        But realize that the police have retained all data, every time, no matter whether the courts have ruled bulk DNA cannot be kept, or number plates or anything else. So regardless of law, the contents of your phone will be kept for every purpose.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Don't talk to police ever

          Not true, the Police's role is to investigate and gather all of the relevant evidence.

          It is the prosecuting authority (the CPS in the UK) of the relevant state so it would be the DA here to decide whether or not to prosecute based on the evidence gathered.

          That certain categories of crime such as DUI automatically go to prosecution is neither here nor there, the prosecution is still done by the authority not the rozzers

    2. Daniel Voyce

      Same reason as this - would having navigation on the phone consist "usage", what about streaming radio? Far too ambiguous to trust that any police officer could accurately say "this is the cause of it", you want my data then subpoena the network and see if there are any corresponding outgoing calls / SMS, if you want to look at the rest of it then get a warrant.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Voted yes for exact same reason

      First, while the ECU does not have a precise RTC, it has one in order to timestamp logs. It would record the crash and you can interrogate it. All you need is to compare its time to the phone time and you will get the crash time exactly down to fractions of a second. In addition to that, depending on what apps you are running the crash may also be recorded on the phone accelerometer. So the argument about "inexact time of the crash" is illiterate, at best.

      Second, from a legal perspective, this should not need any new law. Existing law in most jurisdictions allows the police full and unfettered access to the car, inhabitants and cargo to investigate a crash.

      Third, there is a long standing precedent basis which curtails the right not to self-incriminate yourself in such circumstances. For example, you are automatically guilty if you refuse to submit yourself to an alcohol or drug test in the aftermath of a crash. Same for speed cameras and "identifying driver", etc. The moment you get in a vehicle you wave half of your rights not to self-incriminate in pretty much any legislation worldwide.

      So on the balance of things, it is better if:

      1. The police does it systematically

      2. The evidence obtainable through this is strictly limited by a law so the police cannot use it for fishing expeditions looking for other stuff.

      If these are not in place they will do it anyway, but without any controls to limit what can they obtain and what can they use the info for.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Voted yes for exact same reason

        The evidence obtainable through this is strictly limited by a law so the police cannot use it for fishing expeditions looking for other stuff.

        This was stated in the article and is the reason I did not object. The legislation needs the most stringent safeguards so that the police do not go fishing - preferably jail time for any cop who abuses his authority in this circumstance. Also, the phone owner should be allowed to surrender his phone to the police (still locked) and have the right to refuse to unlock it until it can be arranged for his lawyer and a neutral technical expert to be present to ensure fair play and no unauthorised data access. Few would bother, but there *might* be data of enormous commercial value on the phone, or data that could make the owner vulnerable to blackmail, quite apart from any possibility of self-incrimination.

      2. gibbleth

        Re: Voted yes for exact same reason

        In the United States of America, we have something called the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution that very specifically limits the rights of a policeman to search a vehicle, and, you may be surprised to know, routine traffic incidents are currently, in my district (the Supreme Court of the United States has not addressed the issue but my circuit court has), not 'probable cause' so searching a car would either require obvious evidence of criminal behavior or some other admissable probable cause. If the traffic accident will obviously result in a likely criminal prosecution, then a search may be warranted, but, in that case, they can retain the phone for later inspection. In all other incidents, this would not be legal. Traffic incidents are not criminal because that would violate the sixth amendment guarantee to right to trial by jury for criminal cases. Since having a jury trial for each and every traffic ticket would be prohibitively expensive, the several states all make traffic stops not criminal. This means that there is no right to search.

        Anyway, this law is unlikely to succeed in my opinion, and I am not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice, but the United States Supreme Court has long recognized a 'right to travel' as a fundamental right, and this law would needlessly impede that right. The state would be required to show, in court, that a) there would be a compelling public benefit (doubtful; you anti-phone use people have failed to make a substantial case), and b) that there is no other less intrusive way to do it (true; they can just subpoena the phone records from the provider). This is because the right to travel is strictly interpreted.

        What it does, however, is provide me with one more reason to never go near the state of New York, not that I really needed another one...

      3. PacketPusher

        Re: Voted yes for exact same reason

        I don't know much about ECUs, but mine cannot possibly have the correct time. Last time the battery was changed, I did it myself and did not reset any clock. The log timestamp is at best an elapsed time since power up.

    4. Mycho Silver badge

      Indeed, it's likely that the second thing you do after a crash is to whip out your phone and call for help. This law would make people reluctant to use their mobile phones right after a crash, which would inevitably cost lives.

      1. Nigel 11

        Indeed, it's likely that the second thing you do after a crash is to whip out your phone and call for help. This law would make people reluctant to use their mobile phones right after a crash, which would inevitably cost lives.

        Oh for heaven's sake! What policeman, prosecutor or juror would believe that someone was on the phone to the emergency services immediately *before* a crash, without any good cause? On top of which the emergency services record all communications, so the entire exchange would be available to dispel any remaining doubt. Indeed, the most likely use of such a call would be to establish a more precise time-line.

      2. John Sturdy

        That one's easy to filter

        It's likely that what you'll do after a crash is to whip out your phone and dial the emergency number (999 / 112 / 911 / whatever) which is a distinct and well-known number that cops should be capable of recognizing.

      3. Pookietoo

        Re: reluctant to use their mobile phones right after a crash

        Why would they be reluctant? Their call will be recorded and logged by the emergency call centre, so unless people are in the habit of calling to say they’ve been in an accident before it happens ...

    5. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      I've got headphones in my car, I stick the phone on the dashboard, plug in the charger and listen to pod casts and the like.. what then?

      I also use google now (well attempt to use) to call people using the mic button on the headphones.. Would those instances that are not illegal count?

      What if you've got bluetooth control of your phone so you can play music through your car's radio, does that still count?

      There are many different ways a phone can be used and yet still considered perfectly legal so each case will have to be looked into further by someone who understands what programs where running and how they where being used.

      If this tool only gave a binary, arbitrary decision then it's too heavy handed for use.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        According to the article "driving is illegal in New York". It's got tougher since the time Woody Allen shot a moose.

        Just don't fool around with your other devices while in your car. Just don't.

        By next year the phone will be driving, anyway, not you.

      2. StevieDee

        Isn't using headphones, and therefore being unable to hear outside events clearly an offence also?

        1. Nigel 11

          Isn't using headphones, and therefore being unable to hear outside events clearly an offence also

          Not explicitly. Deaf people are allowed to drive (unlike blind people, or people who are visually impaired and who are not wearing the spectacles or contacts that make them legal).

          It might be supporting evidence for a charge of "driving without due care and attention".

        2. Pookietoo

          Re: Isn't using headphones .... an offence?

          How about turning up the ICE in a double-glazed car?

    6. big_D Silver badge

      I thought that police have used carrier meta data for years, in order to find out if the driver had sent / received a text at "around" the time of the accident?

      With the advent of Whatsapp, Telegram, Threema and Co. it is not as easy to use carrier metadata. As long as the search is restricted to looking to see if messages were sent/received at the approximate time of the crash, then I'm OK with that. If it is a cart blanche to actually read those messages, then no...

      Having been rear-ended by somebody too busy texting to see that the traffiic lights were red and we had stopped, I'm not totally against such a rule.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My "no" was simply because there are already enough legal structures in place for this. If there is a reasonable AND JUSTIFIED suspicion that the driver had been texting they should normally not have any problem getting a warrant signed by a judge asking for the relevant meta data. No new techniques needed that can be abused for other purposes.

      In addition, I support the notion that a responding policeman is unlikely to be able to do this correctly, even trained. I've seen in the UK what so-called "trained" policemen are capable of and I'm sorry, but as far as I can tell the training was a pointless exercise, also because they don't seem to have the faintest clue how to interpret the data they so gather which makes MISinterpretation not just possible, but likely and it's a sure bet that is never going to be in your favour.

      After all, they don't need innocents. Their statistics need convictions.

      1. danbishop

        The warrant might well work for SMS/call data... but what about What's App, or Facebook Messenger, or the myriad of other internet based communication apps. The fact the app was communicating with Facebook/What's App at the time proves nothing. You'd need the device itself to see if a message was actively being sent, or, a very expensive and lengthy multinational investigation to get the raw data/logs from Facebook/What's App themselves.

        The Police don't interpret data: they collect it. A court would ultimately provide the interpretation and decide whether or not a party is guilty and this might well include testimony from experts in the field, rather than trained officers, if required.

        Their statistics need convictions? Really? Take the tin foil hat off for just a moment and consider the possibility that maybe individual officers aren't incentivised by conviction rate and that even if they were, there's also an awful lot more to their job than car crashes and idiots behind a wheel. The vast majority of jobs an officer attends in any given day involve basic conflict resolution/protection of vulnerable people and prosecution plays either no part, or forms the final piece and last resort in a complex resolution.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Their statistics need convictions? Really? Take the tin foil hat off for just a moment and consider the possibility that maybe individual officers aren't incentivised by conviction rate and that even if they were, there's also an awful lot more to their job than car crashes and idiots behind a wheel.

          About 3 years ago I would have concurred with you, but I since had to review a case in its early stages and, as a consequence, I kept an eye on it as it worked its way through the system. Someone's life was destroyed on the basis of evidence that anyone with even the most basic IT talent would have found laughable, but as the officers were "certified" (IMHO "certifiable" would have been more accurate), their "evidence" was allowed to stand in court. It didn't help that the guy didn't have a lawyer with any IT expertise, but this was so farcical that it destroyed my trust in the system.

          So no, I no longer believe that police and even judges are neutral.

      2. Pookietoo

        Re: they don't seem to have the faintest clue

        That's fine, because as soon as there's a whiff of prosecution they'll be calling in legal and technical experts on both sides to sort out what happened and what matters.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I don't see the benefit of creating a log of smartphone communications when that information is not necessarily related to the time of the accident.Some vehicles are equipped with logging devices (similar to a black box) for recording speed, direction, etc. at the time of collision but even the value of that information can be questioned.

    9. Colin Tree

      motion detect

      Well if they also accessed the gps, motion detect processor they might get exact time of impact, whether you picked up the phone, texting or phoning, fiddling with music, playing stupid games, taking a photo or video.

      BUT, they shouldn't have access to any data not directly connected with the time of the accident.

  2. veti Silver badge

    The telcos wouldn't know if you were writing a text message or email but hadn't yet sent it. Or if you were reading a message you'd received earlier. Or if you were taking a picture, or... basically, anything that doesn't generate instant traffic. Proper analysis of the phone could determine that.

    Honestly, I don't know what the objection is. If you're in a crash, that's already probable cause right there for investigation. And if someone else was using your phone, then that's what legal experts call an "explanation". Unless that someone has mysteriously absconded right after the prang, they'll support your story and there's no problem.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      >Proper analysis of the phone could determine that.

      >Honestly, I don't know what the objection is.

      The answer is in the first poster's comment. The police are unlikely to be able to determine the exact time of the accident, and therefore the likelihood of the data helping is low. Well, I say "help." Given that using a phone while driving is illegal in many places, it might help secure a conviction, but may have little to do with whether the phone use had any impact on the events leading to the accident.

      Any distraction is a problem while driving. Having an important conversation on a hands-free or with a passenger is a problem, more so than feeling for the volume button on the radio or phone. Strictly policed speed limits I also find dangerous as it is easy to engender road-rage for travelling below the speed limit and blocking those behind who may have cruise control, but also constantly looking at your dashboard to ensure you aren't 3km/h (yes, that is half walking speed) over the limit on a motorway.

      1. 9Rune5

        Yes, the first poster seemed to be right on target.

        What if you took a drive out in the forrest, parked and snapped a picture. Then, while driving home your phone regained access to the internet and started synchronizing... That is a hefty amount of data traffic right there. How would one seperate the wheat from the chaff when looking at the traffic logs?

        I.e. you'd have to put the data traffic in context. Which is even more problematic. Even the phone's owner would not necessarily know what was being transferred. Looking at the data usage graph of my own phone I see a steadily increasing use of wifi starting on March 16th with a long list of apps underneath. I have no idea what went on an hour ago.

        Maybe there are logs kept by Android that would shed some light on that?

        I suspect you'd have to recover a IM exchange ala "home in 15 minutes, omg is that a deer on the pweorj" in order to determine where the driver's attention was at the time.

      2. JoshOvki

        > Strictly policed speed limits I also find dangerous as it is easy to engender road-rage for travelling below the speed limit and blocking those behind who may have cruise control...

        Laziness is no excuse. Remember it is a speed LIMIT not a speed TARGET. Drive at 3kmh below the LIMIT then you have that bit of flexibility, everyone is a winner ay. Although it may take you an extra minute (heavens forbid) to arrive at your destination.

        Further more if you have cruise control on and notice you are approaching the car in front drop down the cruise control a couple of KPH, you will hardly notice the difference (3km/h is half of walking speed after all).

        1. andyUK

          Much of London is now 20mph - You think I should drive everywhere at 17mph in 2nd gear? think again.

          The other poster is correct -- if speed rules are enforced too heavily they becomne a distraction to drivers

          1. The Original Steve
            IT Angle

            Quite. I want to be focusing on my surroundings, not if my speedo needle is a whisker above the number on the sign post 500 yards earlier.

            Drive to the conditions and surroundings. 3mph lower doesn't mean you're 'safe' or even doing a suitable speed. I'm perfectly happy doing 30mph less than the limit, but also going 20mph above it.

            One of those is a very foggy winters evening, and the other is a patch of road I know well, in the dry, during daylight with sod all traffic around me. (And both extremes are with a well maintained vehicle)

            Thinking that whatever the law states is always the "right" or "appropriate" thing just means we legislate to the people that don't think - the stupid minority that spoils it for the rest of us.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "Quite. I want to be focusing on my surroundings, not if my speedo needle is a whisker above the number on the sign post 500 yards earlier . . . . I'm perfectly happy doing 30mph less than the limit, but also going 20mph above it."

              So you know when you're going 30mph less than the limit, and 20mph over it, but somehow going *at* the speed limit is distracting you from your surroundings?

              Claims of being glued to the speedo is reductio ad absurdum that appears in the comments on pretty much every story about driving. Glancing every 10 seconds or so, recognising if you're going downhill, are all it takes to keep yourself right - you're not going to suddenly rocket up 10% + 2 in the interim. Your speed is relevant to your surroundings, and the speed limit is also part of your surroundings.

              I've been done speeding twice. Not once have I had to check if I was caught or not - I knew I was speeding, and by how much.

    2. Annihilator

      "The telcos wouldn't know if you were writing a text message or email but hadn't yet sent it. Or if you were reading a message you'd received earlier."

      I'm not sure that a road-side analysis of the phone would reveal that either. I'm not even sure a lab-analysis of the phone would reveal that - I'd be surprised if it logs when a text was read for the first time, let alone a subsequent time. Or when a text/email started to be composed.

      Either way, in my view it's an illegal search/seizure and would be protected by the constitution (in the US anyway).

  3. senrik1

    They don't actually need this

    In the end, it comes down to control of the vehicle.

    If you are texting while driving, you are in control of the vehicle... you are liable.

    If you are talking to anyone, you are in control of the vehicle.... you are liable.

    If you are eating while driving, you are in control of the vehicle.... you are liable.

    If you skid off the road because of road conditions, you are still in control of the vehicle.... you are liable.

    Bottom line: your backside is in the driver's seat. You are controlling the vehicle (if cruise control is on, you turned it on. You have made the decision to give control, but you are still responsible for what happens to it). Whatever happens, you are responsible. if you kill someone while driving, you should be cited for vehicular homicide, as you caused the car to hit the person (if the person 'just jumped out in front of you, you were driving recklessly, too fast for the conditions... its still your fault). If you skid off the road, your fault too (for the same reasons). LEO needs to simply apply the existing laws. Having a drivers license is a certification that you are responsible to drive... and if you are not, then you are committing a crime.... and it should simply be treated as such.

    1. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: They don't actually need this

      "you are liable"

      If you allow yourself to be distracted enough cause a crash what you chose to distract yourself with is irrelevant.

      I have said more than once that a dickhead with a phone in is hand is still a dickhead when you take the phone away.

      Law which make particular distractions illegal are stupid as is this proposed one seeking to detect the former.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They don't actually need this

      @"If you are texting while driving, you are in control of the vehicle... you are liable."

      What if BOTH vehicles are texting, one of you hands your phone over, the other doesn't. You are prosecuted because the evidence shows you were texting.

      What if BOTH vehicles are using the GPS, your phone shows you on the location search screen as if you were typing in a destination. The other does not. You swear you were not searching for a location and anyway would have used hands-free, but you are the easier prosecution.

      BOTH vehicles have smartphones, your "recent apps" shows video player, candy crush, messaging, text screen the lot. You claim you weren't using any of them, but all those recent apps would be distracting. You've made yourself easier to prosecute, you've made it easier for your insurance to walk away from the policy.

      Your phone shows a conversation with your insurer about the validity of your insurance. Officer can claim you are uninsured and seize your car for sale.

      Your phone shows you have a "Julian Assange" telephone number. Your Line account to a man named 'Ismaell' who lives in a rag-head country. Not wise, UK police have been pumped full of prejudice and propaganda, such that the security services break the laws and none of those officers will kick down the doors at the Donut, but *will* raid Parliament for whistleblower documents.

      Your phone shows a Line conversation with your uninsured son, he drove the car without your permission, Officer can interpret that as theft. If you claim he had permission, you let him drive without insurance, seize car/sell car.

      Look there are millions of ways, big and small that handing over private data can be used rightly or wrongly against you. YOU do not know all the possible ways, because they're inventing new ones every day.

      Encrypt your phone, never decrypt your phone, recognize the antagonistic nature of the process, don't make yourself the easy target.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: They don't actually need this

        What if BOTH vehicles are texting, one of you hands your phone over, the other doesn't. You are prosecuted because the evidence shows you were texting.

        Well, the law should make it clear that the police are obliged to treat all phones in cars involved in the accident equally. I'd go so far as to say that the law should invalidate all phone evidence in this circumstance, since it suggests police prejudice. Your objection applies to volunteering your phone, when the other driver can legally refuse to. It goes away if there is a legal obligation for both drivers to provide phone evidence and for the police to obtain it from both/all parties.

    3. JayB

      Re: They don't actually need this

      "if you kill someone while driving, you should be cited for vehicular homicide, as you caused the car to hit the person (if the person 'just jumped out in front of you, you were driving recklessly, too fast for the conditions... its still your fault). If you skid off the road, your fault too (for the same reasons)."

      Don't follow your argument that "if the person jumped out in front of you... it's still your fault". Sorry, but no. There have, I believe, been a number of cases where people have chosen going for a walk on the motorway as a peculiar form of extreme sport (or method of suicide). Are you seriously telling me that you would advocate that the poor sod who hit these idiots be done under vehicular homicide? So how does that apply to train drivers when someone chooses to kill themselves via that route?

      Fully agree that some speeding asshat who mows someone down because they are being reckless and stupid should be done, but someone who is obeying the law, driving with all due care and attention and someone else fucks up their day, deliberately or through application of epic stupidity, sorry, but no.

      As for the article, really not sure. Half of me says "yeah, what's the problem, let them run a check", and then the other half slaps that half and reminds it that by and large the terms "unprincipled untrustworthy lunatics" and "thin end of the wedge" tend to apply to Law Enforcement. Once they have an in on gaining data, and being able to use threats of fines and imprisonment if you don't "willing" give them everything they demand, then there is no limit to how much the general populace is going to have to bend over.

    4. Stig2k

      Re: They don't actually need this

      " . . . Whatever happens, you are responsible. if you kill someone while driving, you should be cited for vehicular homicide, as you caused the car to hit the person (if the person 'just jumped out in front of you, you were driving recklessly, too fast for the conditions... its still your fault). . ."

      How the hell has this utter nonsense earned 8 upvotes ?!

    5. Gruezi

      Re: They don't actually need this

      Yeah I am not sure I get this logic. There is a law in place to stop people using phones while driving because it causes more accidents. Just like there is a law in place that says you cannot be under the influence of alcohol or drugs while driving because it too causes more accidents.

      They have a blood/breath test to see if you were breaking the drink/drug law. Now they are proposing a phone test to see if you were breaking the phone law. Simple.

  4. ecofeco Silver badge

    2 words: black box

    This is an obvious violation of the 4th Amendment. Not that it matters anymore as the 4th Amendment has been pretty much rendered dead letter decades ago. War on Drugs and all that.

    What is even more insidious is that there is already a tracking device for determining what happened: your car's black box.

    Most U.S. cars have had black boxes installed since the turn of the century. Most people do not know this. But that's Americans for ya.

    And allow me to take this opportunity, and others like, as often as possible, to bash the lovely police state of New York. Home of the trillion dollar Wall St fraud and world economy wreckers. Funny how economic fraud and police state seem to always be found together in history.

    1. senrik1
      Holmes

      Re: 2 words: black box

      Unneccesary. In the end, whoever is behind the wheel is responsible. Does it really matter why they did it?

      Yes, I have seen black ice conditions where one car rear-ended another, who rear-ended the one in front of them, and on down the line.... Everyone in the line is responsible.... the question is who pays... and the answer is: whoever rear ends the car in front of them pays.... well, the driver does... cars don't usually drive themselves. additional charges of reckless driving should also follow.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: 2 words: black box

        This responsibility thing is not as clear cut as you are trying to assert.

        In fact if a driver is travelling around a corner and loses control of the vehicle because the road surface is slippery where the driver could reasonably expect the surface to be good then there is a reason for the slippery surface.

        If the slippery surface is caused by a recent spillage of diesel which is not easy to detect, then the responsibility shifts to the creator of the hazard (because you could not reasonably expect the Highways maintainers to clear or post a warning to every spill before the next vehicle passes it).

        There are many such similar circumstances where we have to consider the reasonable expectations of what a driver can do and these have all been validated as such in inquest court rooms, otherwise cars should never turn a wheel.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 2 words: black box

        "one car rear-ended another, who rear-ended the one in front of them, and on down the line.... Everyone in the line is responsible.... the question is who pays... and the answer is: whoever rear ends the car in front of them pays"

        Eh? Surely it is the driver of the vehicle who caused the initial collision which forced the cars in front into each other. You can't be hit from behind and propelled into the car in front and be at fault for that.

        1. Nigel 11

          Re: 2 words: black box

          You can't be hit from behind and propelled into the car in front and be at fault for that.

          If you have stopped at (say) a red light for what is likely to be more than a second or two, and have not engaged your handbrake, then you are at least partly to blame if the handbrake would have held your car short of impacting the one in front. (The footbrake is ineffective because the jolt of the impact from behind is likely to knopck your foot off the brake).

          Note for US readers: I'm assuming manual transmission "stick shift" in neutral and UK standard controls.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 2 words: black box

          You can be responsible in the U.S., even if you are hit from behind, if you don't leave enough space between you and the car in front of you. You can also be hit from behind and be responsible if you do as a friend did and state, 'I only lost control for a moment' when asked what happened.

        3. David Nash Silver badge

          Re: 2 words: black box

          It's always been my understanding that (in the UK at least) yes, you can. Driving instructors tend to advocate leaving plenty of space in front for that reason I think.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 2 words: black box

            Definitely not true in the UK. Regardless of handbrake or not, if the collision was caused by the driver of the initial impact.

            What will happen though is the car at the front (Car#1) will claim off the insurance of the car who hit it but car#2's insurance will claim for both off car#3's insurance.

            The only issue is if there is an uninsured car which was the index case (quite likely as these tend to not have MOT or be in a great state of roadworthyness), then Car#2's insurance will be liable for all costs unless you can personally sue the driver of car#3 (good luck with that).

  5. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

    Simple

    Mandatory dash cam pointed at the driver. You wouldn't allow that. Same as using phone for telemetry.

    1. ted frater

      Re: Simple

      Since finding dash cam russia, for educational reasons as well as a good laugh, ive had a dash cam running when ever im driving. 2 reasons,

      1. to cover my ass if someone does something stupid and causes an accident,

      2' it also more importantly makes me drive with more care as it also records any mistakes I make.

      Definately advise everyone to fit on in their own interests. Lidl do them for 45 gbp.

      Also with regard to using a mp when im driving, its in my pocket so cant get it out to answer. Always find somewhere to pull in and stop. By then every caller has rung off!!

      Ted.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Simple

        There was a crash on a dual carriageway when I was driving to work. A car 2 in front spontaneously crashed into a barrier, the car in front of me stopped, I stopped but the car behind me hit me.

        I got out to help the car that initially crashed wearing my emergency uniform jacket that was in the back of my car and after checking he was okay walked back towards my car. I passed the car in front with three girls in it who said to me "Is it okay if we go as we didn't see it happen and we weren't involved?". I said the police would be there soon, but if they wanted to leave there was nothing to stop them (they ended up staying)

        After the police arrived, took statements I got e-mailed the report later that day. The car in front of me had now claimed that I had hit them in the rear (obviously didn't realise that I was also the person they had spoke to above not being involved). I contacted the police, explained it didn't happen (possible insurance fraud claim) and that I would be prepared to go to court to explain this.

        To cut a long story short, I always drive with a dashcam now that starts recording as soon as the ignition is on.

    2. Nigel 11

      Re: Simple

      Mandatory dash cam pointed at the driver. You wouldn't allow that.

      Given appropriate legal safeguards and limits, why not? I'd suggest a recording overwritten on a 30-second loop, continuing for five seconds after something causes the airbags to deploy and then locking the recording. The law might mandate disclosure or it might merely allow judge and jury to draw inferences from a driver's refusal to do so. Further safeguards required, allowing a driver to insist on a lawyer and independant technical expert before unlocking the recording.

      1. Pookietoo

        Re: 30-second loop, continuing for five seconds

        I think that may not be long enough in a multiple pile up, and I'm not sure that airbag deployment is the best indicator of an event either.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vote yes

    Because I want America to become as fascist as possible. Then implode.

    1. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Vote yes

      Take the mask off, Donald, we can see your 'hair' over the top anyway

  7. WonkoTheSane

    Sure Officer, you can scan my phone.

    Just let me get it out of the boot.

    (When driving, my phone is in a pocket of my work bag, in the boot of the car.)

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Sure Officer, you can scan my phone.

      When driving my phone is connected by Bluetooth to the car the roof mounted microphone and audio system speakers. The controls are on the steering wheel, the 2015 car is designed like that.

      But nobody ever calls and I never think of making calls anyway.

  8. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Possible abuse?

    They do checkpoints for alcohol usage. Will they do checkpoints for phone usage? How do you correlate that someone used a phone and didn't pull over to use it? If it's accident, then get the warrant, examine the phone, the car's black box, etc.

    One is supposed to be presumed innocent UNTIL proven guilty in court of law, right? Well, unless the Constitution was amended in the last couple of weeks, this still applies.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Possible abuse?

      One is supposed to be presumed innocent UNTIL proven guilty in court of law, right? Well, unless the Constitution was amended in the last couple of weeks, this still applies.

      Being proven guilty or not guilty in a court of law involves a process that includes evidence gathering.

      If prosecutors can get access to your bank account activity to prove a case, how is getting evidence of phone activity very different.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        @werdsmith -- Re: Possible abuse?

        It's not different. To get your banking info requires a warrant. Same thing here.. get a warrant. Or do different rules apply for phones than everything else?

      2. gibbleth

        Re: Possible abuse?

        Umm, no. As I said elsewhere, a traffic accident is not a criminal case unless there is strong reason to believe it is. The constitution of the United States prohibits fishing for information to determine if someone could be charged with a crime; there must be evidence of an actual crime before the fishing can start. This principle is repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court.

        Two legal principles apply here, the right to peaceably travel and the fourth amendment right to privacy. In the case of this law, forcing you to surrender one strictly-interpreted right in order to exercise another is very, very likely unconstitutional and I expect this law will be struck down.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ask nicely

    And show me the Warrant.

  10. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "...just ask the telcos..."

    "What else could they be looking for?"

    People playing Candy Crush while their phone is in Airplane Mode.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You mentioned the word 'Jehovah' in you text message ...

    ... and therefore as a Blasphemer ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      €25,000 fine*

      *in Ireland

  13. DougS Silver badge

    Absolutely not

    If the crash is my fault, it doesn't matter whether I was on my phone or not. If the crash wasn't my fault, it doesn't either.

    Besides, since we currently have stupid laws where "hands free" use is legal, how are they going to tell the difference between you being on the phone hands free versus holding it? The phone just shows calls made/received and texts made/received. It doesn't show whether you were dictating or punching them in manually.

    This is just an attempt for cops to go fishing, and intimidate people who might try to record the cops when they show up the scene - they can check the phone and "accidentally" delete something they don't want the public to see.

  14. lesession

    Excuses excuses

    All in favour of this idea and it should come to the UK as soon as possible.

    This is not a civil liberties issue, it's an ego issue.

    There's more than enough verified proof out there that text and mobile use whilst driving causes accidents. The only people who continue to deny it are those who are self-assessed as being such genius skillful drivers that the law should only apply to other lesser people.

    No phone call or text is more important than the life or significant well-being of another road user; yet we all, every day, see people driving along texting or on the phone.

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Excuses excuses

      We already do a RIPA with the phone company after accidents in England, so this isn't really necessary for us.

      To some other the other comments - yes, we do have phone use checks and it's amazing the number of middle-class people who will argue that they weren't on the phone when an officer in a fluorescent yellow jacket sees them from 3ft away. Or even the person who gesticulated "I'm on the phone" when told to stop.

      Here physically interacting with your phone even as a satnav or music player is criminal, and a good thing too because we don't want distracted drivers. The law is probably a bit behind the times as a properly mounted phone with a decent UI is unlikely to be any worse than a car radio, but most phones aren't properly mounted.

      1. JayB

        Re: Excuses excuses

        "Here physically interacting with your phone even as a satnav or music player is criminal, and a good thing too because we don't want distracted drivers."

        Yet lighting up a ciggie isn't?

        1. MrZoolook

          Re: Excuses excuses

          "Yet lighting up a ciggie isn't?"

          Depends if minors are in the car or not...

        2. x 7 Silver badge

          Re: Excuses excuses

          "Yet lighting up a ciggie isn't?"

          if it caused a crash because it diverted attention, then it would - at least - be grounds for prosecution for driving with paying care and attention, possibly a greater charge

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One issue....

    ...many cars these days can read and send texts hands free. So how does that work....

    Example:

    Over my car radio I get:

    Phone: "Text from xyz, shall I read it or ignore it"

    Me: Read it

    Phone (text) "Hi can you pick up some milk on the way home". "Do you want to reply or have you finished"

    me: "Reply"

    Phone "Ok what do you want me to say"

    Me "Sure, no problem"

    Phone "Ok I'll send "Sure no problem" Do you want me to send it, start again or cancel"

    Me "Send it"

    Phone "Ok message sent"

    That takes very little effort, it's easy to carry on checking mirrors, signalling, turning etc, all hands free.

    Yet my phone will show me as texting.

    So how does that work?

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: One issue....

      I agree on the technical point - distinguishing (although you might have protection if you can demonstrate that you have the hands free system) might be difficult.

      However if you think you have still been carry on checking mirrors, signalling, turning etc, all hands free. as effectively as if you were when you were not listening to and answering the message then you are very much mistaken, and solid research has demonstrated this. Handsfree use of a phone in a car causes a deterioration that is similar to (if not exactly the same) as holding on to the damn thing.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: One issue....

        Handsfree use of a phone in a car causes a deterioration that is similar to (if not exactly the same) as holding on to the damn thing.

        Sorry but that is utter bollocks. To text from a phone manually you have to focus your eyes on the phone screen. You are then driving completely blind to what is happening on the road in front of you. If you talk to your car it is the same as talking to your passengers. Yes, they might distract you. No, they don't make it impossible for you to watch the road ahead. Until they ban talking to passengers (hopefully never) there's no reason not to talk to a robotic device. Nature has separated visual processing from vocal communication for very good evolutionary reasons that applied ever since we started living and hunting in groups.

        And yes, there are idiots who are incapable of talking to a passenger while looking straight ahead. They ought to be banned from driving but it's less easy to catch them.

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: One issue....

          @Nigel1

          Just look at the evidence. Any use of a mobile in a car, hands free is as bad as low levels of alcohol and far worse than a conversation or other in car tasks. You are the one talking bollox.

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15614838 compares the effect with alcohol (and to a certain level of alcohol, hands free comes off worse.

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19433208 reviews studies the compare hands free with handed conversations, and yes, concludes that they have a similar effect on driving effectiveness.

          1. Nigel 11

            Re: One issue....

            @BebopWeBop

            So would you ban drivers from conversing with passengers? IMO that has to be the baseline level of acceptable driver distraction. If talking to passengers is acceptable, so should talking to the car.

            It's surely obvious that a driver who has his eyes focussed on a mobile's screen is blind to whatever is happening on the road in front of him, as surely as if he has a cloth over his eyes. That is an unacceptable and trivially reducible risk. If you want to use your phone hands-on then pull off the road.

            The difference may show up if the nature of the accidents (in a simulator!) were compared. I expect it would show that vocal distraction results in an increased rate of minor "fender-bender" collisions, whereas hands-on use of a phone to text results in an increased rate of potentially fatal smashes into stationary or oncoming vehicles at full road speed.

            1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

              Re: One issue....

              @Nigel11

              Go and look at the literature (real research). There are significant differences between talking to someone in the car (who is to some extend sharing the drivers experience) and talking to a remote person and/or composing a message to someone remotely. Just read it please and then come back and comment on why you think it is incorrect.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One issue....

        I'd disagree, because when TALKING hands free, the other person "prompts" for an answer, jumps in, carries on talking when you need to concentrate

        When it's a text, for me anyway, it's no difference to talking to yourself. It's easy to ignore it and mine cancels if you don't respond. It doesn't nag you for an answer.

        1. Mk4

          Re: One issue....

          Research as far back as 2001 demonstrates that listening to something (radio, audio book, etc.) in dual-task studies has no effect on driver performance. Tasks involving word generation result in a two-fold increase in failures to notice signifcant events (e.g. red lights) and an increase in response time when those significant events are noticed. This is irrespective of whether the device is hand-held or hands-free.

          The science is clear on this topic, but interestingly it may also include speaking to people in the car. On the basis of the science, law-makers should make it illegal for a driver to speak while driving, irrespective of the person or device being spoken to.

    2. Nigel 11

      Re: One issue....

      It might require analysis of your car's black box or in-depth forensic analysis of your phone log. It might be a legitimate objection where current hardware is involved -- one that might and should result in some guilty drivers escaping justice. If you claim (in court, on oath) that the texting just before an accident was voice-generated, the obligation is on the prosecution to prove you are lying. Fundamental principles of both UK and US law "innocent until proved guilty" and "guilty beyond reasonable doubt".

      So such legislation should also impose an obligation on future phones and car control systems to log and distinguish texts submited by voice separately from those manually keyed in. That should not be technically difficult, and makes the problem go away within a few years.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: One issue....

        As long as it is legal for car makers to build and sell cars for use on public roads that have interfaces for hands free use of phones, then it is effectively endorsed.

        That's what it is not legal to have a entertainment video screen that is visible from the driver's seat, they cut off as soon as the car moves. If hands free is still bad, then it should be disabled in a similar way.

  16. Spencer Tomlinson

    Worse than drink driving!!!

    Here in the UK phones are already banned when driving throughout the UK. The police will subpoena your mobile phone records anyway if your involved in a serious accident. Failing to submit you phone after an accident is a good as an admission of guilt. The law states quite clearly that you are not in full control of your vehicle if your using a mobile phone while driving, however does show exemption to two way radios making the police, ambulance service, taxis and even radio amateurs exempt however you can still be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention. In my book you should have nothing to hide from the police. If your attention was not fully on the road and half on your mobile phone then your as guilty as a drunk driver. All mobile phones should be banned while driving unless it's via a car kit. Hence I believe the rules around texting tightening because your eyes can't be in two places at once.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
      Megaphone

      Re: Worse than drink driving!!!

      Yes, and the police can ask what calls were being made during the window of the incident. But don't think that driving with a hand free system makes you any safer.

      http://www.mthr.org.uk/research_projects/documents/Rum5FinalReport.pdf is a reasonably robust study from TRL that looks at the differences in driver capability when engaged in different tasks and concludes that hands free conversations have significantly more effect than normal conversations.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15614838 compares the effect with alcohol (and to a certain level of alcohol, hands free comes off worse.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19433208 reviews studies the compare hands free with handed conversations, and yes, concludes that they have a similar effect on driving effectiveness.

      Moral - just don't answer the phone or texts when driving. Either have your phone hand off when you are in the car, and/or pull over.

  17. Android Hater

    The number of people I see every day weaving all over the road because they are using their phone is horrifying.

    If someone close to you was killed or very seriously injured by a distracted driver would you still vote No?

    Distracted driving KILLS.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      @ Android Hater

      "If someone close to you was killed or very seriously injured by a distracted driver would you still vote No?"

      Yes, I would, because I am not a hypocrite who thinks that the significance of the wider issues change just because I was affected by a situation. The relevant issues here are: 1) what should the legitimate limitations on police powers be; 2) is the number of deaths caused by distracted driving significant enough to require such a change in the law; 3) are the data granular enough to deal with the legitimate queries brought up here and elsewhere, and; 4) what is wrong with a warrant in these situations?

      My answers to those questions are: 1) they should be very strict. The police have significant powers covering this and distraction issues, so they need no more; 2) No; 3) Don't know, therefore it is up to the proposers to give the correct evidence; 4) as with a lot of current "policing", getting a warrant seems to be just too difficult - they need to be reminded that they don't have an automatic right to anything that makes their job easier.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bye-bye phone :-(

    I have seen several occasions where mobile phones are 'investigated' by Police Forensics; when they are eventually returned the handset is almost always found to have been barred from every network!!

    1. Conundrum1885

      Re: Bye-bye phone :-(

      How would this happen?

      My theory: motherboards are removed, cloned and wiped then sold online via the lowest bidder months later.Meanwhile barred boards are purchased online, tested and refitted.

      Plausible deniability, and PROFIT!!!!

      Think about this for a minute: it takes less than 10 minutes per phone and forensics works both ways.

      Tools are available to clone phones and this has to be done anyway, so why give back the evidence that might be used later in court?

      You really think that all the locked boards online are wasted? Hell NO!

  19. wolfetone Silver badge

    I think anyone who drives regularly and at long distance can testify that the number of drivers on a phone are lower than the ABSOLUTE F**KING IDIOTS who don't know how to use their indicators, don't know how to use their mirrors, and indicate to exit a roundabout but still carry on driving around it.

    In my eyes if you have an accident and it's your fault you should be banned from driving. Period. No ifs, no buts. This doesn't excuse people using mobiles while driving, you shouldn't, but those people are fewer in number than the wankers who drive Audi's, Vauxhall's, BMW's and Nissan Micra's.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Well that might clear the roads a little - and would do no good to the margins on some of the more expensive cars regularly seen weaving and tailgating. But having recently nearly been run over on a pedestrian crossing (I jumped) by a driver who was yacking on her mobile, I would certainly extend the principle to phone users.

    2. Nigel 11

      You seem to have an attitude problem, where you ought to have a dash-cam.

      I can protect myself from idiots such as you describe by not trusting the signals of other road users in front of me to such an extent that I cannot do any emergency avoidance if the signals are wrong. It's called defensive driving and ISTR it's recommended in the highway code.

      I cannot protect myself from a driver who runs into the rear of my car at high speed because he is not looking at the road in front of him. Especially so if I am riding a bicycle, moped, or horse. Which is why I think the law ought to come down far harder on text-drivers (harder even than slightly drunk drivers; their reaction time may be degraded, but in most cases they'll at least have slowed their car before impact)

      Oh, and I really cannot believe that you have never mis-signalled yourself. Perhaps in a hire-car in a foreign country, with the indicator stick on the other side of the wheel to where you were expecting? Fault is not black and white. Most air accidents are found to be the result of several items of less than fatal bad luck or malpractice, all fatally coinciding. A few are purely bad luck. You don't usually have to worry about prosecuting the pilot. He's dead. But he rarely deserved more than a reprimand and the opportunity to learn from his error. That's why there is mandatory reporting of near misses, and a similar analysis of what caused them. Motoring fines and the license points system (UK) ought to do something similar for motorists.

      I once drove through a red light and was hauled over by the police (they let me off with a good talking-to). The cause was that I was in a blazing row with my soon-to-be-ex. I've learned my lesson. I'll never again get into a row while driving -- I'll put it off or pull over. I thank that policeman for using his discretion.

    3. Commswonk Silver badge

      @ wolftone

      "This doesn't excuse people using mobiles while driving, you shouldn't, but those people are fewer in number than the wankers who drive Audi's, Vauxhall's, BMW's and Nissan Micra's.

      While not necessarily disagreeing with your underlying sentiments what dreadful fate should be visited on those who misapply apostrophes?

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        "While not necessarily disagreeing with your underlying sentiments what dreadful fate should be visited on those who misapply apostrophes?"

        I'm having a bad day. A super bad day. It's safe to say I'm paying the price for those mistakes.

        Also, yes I have made errors indicating. I'd either be a liar or Rainman to say in the 7 years I've held a license and the 25,000+ miles a year driven home and abroad I've been perfect. But I've had one crash and it was when I was on the main road and some clown came out of a side road and T-boned me.

        Problem is, it's all well and good saying a dashcam will protect you, but it won't. It makes the insurance claims easier yes but it doesn't stop these fools driving in to you or involving you in a crash.

        If I have an attitude problem with drivers then it's because of my age. I was 22 when I got my license and paid £2000 insurance on a £500 car. As I said, I've had one accident in my whole life which wasn't my fault. But it's me and those of my age who all get tarred with the brush that younger drivers are dangerous and it's us pushing up premiums for everyone.

        It's those people who say this who will drive at 40mph on a dual carriageway that's got a speed limit of 60mph, who will be in the fast lane who won't move over. So you either stick behind them, or watch every other driver behind you under take them. Then there are the clowns (and they are clowns) who will cut across the lanes on a roundabout to go straight over, often cutting the person on the inside up. You can then drive along side them, beeping the horn as a release of frustration, only to see their left hand mirror smashed to hell, and their right hand mirror completely missing, and for them to be completely oblivious to what's going on around them.

        Finally, I wasn't saying the drivers who text, call, or watch YouTube videos on their phones while driving (welcome to Birmingham) should be exempt. What I was saying is that they shouldn't be focused on as the only problem on the roads. And faults are never black and white, but if you rear end someone and your car is tested to be fine (as in tyres were fine, brakes were fine) and it's down to you arguing with someone or looking at the lovely woman/man standing at the bus stop, then it is your fault. Your full concentration has to be afforded on to the road at all times, you shouldn't have distractions. That's also in the highway code.

      2. David Nash Silver badge

        Agree (apostrophes comment), but also why pick on those particular cars? Bad drivers can be found in any vehicle type.

        1. Pookietoo

          Re: Bad drivers can be found in any vehicle type.

          But a beige Rover 600 should be given a wide berth.

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Jut a thought

      Neat idea that won't work.

      The signal strength transmitted by a phone varies across four orders of magnitude (2mW to 2W) depending on signal conditions. On the move those conditions will vary rapidly, depending on locations of nearby vehicles, buildings, interference, and cell-stations. How is the car going to distinguish a phone running at 2mW a yard from its sensors (ie inside) and a phone running at 2W 30 yards from its sensors (inverse squares, 30^2 ~= 1000). That latter case may be a pedestrian, or even a person in a nearby residence.

      On top of which telematics is increasingly in use. Not common for cars yet, though some insurers offer better rates if you install a monitor, but large freight vehicles continuously report their location and engine parameters to base for scheduling and maintenance purposes. Using the same mobile network. Transmitting from the lorry less than two meters from your car.

      A better idea would be a non-functional micro-cell within a car that captures any mobiles inside, thereby preventing them from communicating outside. But I don't think the suppressor-bubble could be defined precisely enough to not extend outside the car. Then there's telematics. Then there's the likelyhood that it would prevent people calling the emergency services after accidents. So again no go. (They really ought to install such equipment in prisons, though! )

  21. Peter Simpson 1
    Thumb Down

    Evidence is available from the phone company

    1. There's no urgent need to obtain the evidence from the phone

    2. There may be other data on the phone I do not want the police to view

    3. The carrier can provide the usage information for the phone

    4. A random cop doesn't have the training to operate every kind of phone, and may damage it or erase data.

    5. Phones are not the only source of distraction: passengers, radio, makeup, food, nav/gps/"infotainment" system

    Bad law, politically motivated and solves nothing.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Evidence is available from the phone company

      True in the UK. Can anyone fill us in on whether this is true in the USA? Or whether there are legal reasons that a mobile phone company cannot comply within the current legal framework?

      1. Kurt Meyer

        Re: Evidence is available from the phone company

        @ Nigel 11

        Police in the US automatically check telco records when investigating automobile accidents.

    2. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: Evidence is available from the phone company

      Bad law, politically motivated and solves nothing.

      That sums it all up, perfectly. This law will not accomplish any of it's stated goals, as those are all covered under existent regulation; it is merely and attempt to be seen to "Do Something".

  22. Daniel Hall
    FAIL

    erm..

    "What's odd is the cops could just ask the telcos if someone's phone was in use at a particular time. What else could they be looking for? ®"

    What if they are using handsfree or talking to the phones assistant (siri, cortana etc)

    Is using a handsfree device also illegal? Perhaps next, listening to the radio will become illegal, since if you were really enjoying a talk show or a song, you might get distracted.

    Of course, we'll then have to stop pretty ladies walking down the road with short skirts, because... well you get the idea..

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My Worry Is...

    I agree in principle, the fact of the matter is that if you were doing ANYTHING other than driving and this led to an avoidable crash then YOU are responsible. The phone evidence could be the difference between driving without due care and attention and dangerous driving, the latter carrying a greater sentence.

    The problem arises in how this gets implemented. The article describes the phone being scanned with an app, presumably this needs to be downloaded onto the phone and run. So lets imagine you have a company mobile which has been locked down to prevent anything being installed. Could you be liable for the mobile equivalent of failing to provide a specimen of breath? What if you have a device which you have installed some custom linux distro on which is not compatible with the app?

    The phone could be scanned by an external device but this again requires that the external device is able to interrogate the phone. A company mobile may be locked down to prevent this, a custom ROM of some description may not support it, or the phone could have been damaged in such a way as to make physically connecting to the phone impossible.

    Records are available from the telecom provider under warrant. What these will not show is the use of apps like instant messaging which will only show a data connection or non networked apps which may show nothing at all. Evidence of these could be lost by factory resetting the phone. Log editors are also available which at the moment can edit your devices call and sms history, it is reasonable to assume that they might be enhanced to remove other activity logs. If plod gets lazy (a lazy UK PC? surely not...) and the phone shows no recent activity they might not bother requesting telecom records.

    If the phone is reset following the accident then this may come under destroying evidence. But how would this be applied to a reasonable defence of "My phone had crashed and I had to use it to make an emergency call (because of the accident)"? As mentioned previously this may lead to people not using thier phones after an accident for fear of being accused of destroying or tampering with evidence.

    Perhaps more worrying is what would then happen to any data the police seize. They already have a reputation for hoovering up more data then they should and keeping it (DNA Database). The opportunity of a fishing expedition into someones private communications and data is likely going to be hard to resist. Lets face it we don't just have text messages and call logs, most will have an email client, messaging app, documents and photos. I'm not keen on the idea of some crusty desk bound PC relieving himself over the morale boosting pictures my wife emailled me last year.

    Of course this assumes that the phone is present and can be connected to the driver. I know many people with second hand smart phones and pay as you go SIM cards. In this case if the phone is discretely dropped down a drain or flung under a bush there is no phone to interrogate and no telecom records to connect to the driver.

  24. Clive Galway

    Surely not possible to get accurate information without seizing the phone

    How can they distinguish between you sending a message and an auto-responder sending a message?

    The only way would be to have the device and check which apps / rules are running.

    Hell, you could have even dictated a message, so fundamentally there would be no difference to holding a conversation.

  25. payne747
    Alert

    Conspiracy theory time...

    Me thinks the hand-held device the cops use will be doing more uploading than downloading...

  26. x 7 Silver badge

    already routinely done in the UK after a major smash

    thats why its a good idea to carry a spare "emergency" phone in the car which is ready to be handed over......

  27. nilfs2
    Headmaster

    Turn off the damn thing when driving!!

    Problem fixed!! If you are not using your phone when driving, turning it off shouldn't be a problem for you, this way you will avoid getting a false positive when the police scans your device.

    I'm all up for ways to punish distracted drivers, they kill a lot more people than terrorism, it is out of control, people think that a bloody text message or call is more important than the life of anyone around them, the ultimate act of selfishness.

    If you get distracted with your phone when driving, I hope you fall off a cliff, get severely injured, and your family suffers a lot! That way you will face what the families of innocent victims of distracted drivers face.

    I will take any downvotes as coming from distracted drivers.

  28. gibbleth

    I voted no

    There is little hard evidence that cell phone usage leads to a higher incidence of accidents or that it leads to a higher incidence of fatalities.

    Let me explain, then you can get out the pitchforks and torches. First, cell phone usage (both in cars and out) has been increasing nearly geometrically since the 90s in the United States. In that time, traffic accident rates per mile traveled have gone down slightly. Second, traffic fatalities during the same time have gone down somewhat more per mile traveled, due mostly to vastly improved safety of vehicles on the road but also significantly due to the presence of cell phones and thus much faster emergency response.

    Neither fact, by itself, proves the positive proposition 'cell phone usage while driving has not cost lives', but both, together, disprove the positive proposition 'cell phone usage has significantly increased fatalities on the roads' as such an increase would be glaringly obvious in a significant increase of the fatality statistics on US roads. You would expect at least one standard deviation increase from the previous statistics, but you see a gentle downward trend instead, which is simply not compatible with the proposition that cell phone usage causes increased accidents or increased fatalities.

    So, if it is obvious that cell phone usage impairs a driver compared to an 'attentive driver', what is happening?

    Three theories exist:

    1. Driving doesn't require that much attention. This is, mostly, true. Most drivers know when they need to be attentive (heavy traffic, adverse weather, narrow roads, etc.) and when not (open freeway, few cars, so on) and adapt appropriately. I was once on a road between Las Vegas, NV and Denver, CO, that was completely bereft of cars, hadn't seen one in hours, and I whiled away the time practicing magic. This is one reason that teenagers are disproportionately represented in cell phone usage statistics, but they are disproportionately represented in crash statistics anyway, so there is little benefit in banning teenage use of cell phones while driving anyway.

    2. There are lots of other distractions. Fooling with the radio has been shown to be distracting enough to cause a wreck. I'm pretty sure one time I, personally, was rear-ended, this is what the other driver was doing. People eat, do makeup, talk with passengers, look at signs, on and on, all things that can lead to wrecks. Most of these will be nearly impossible to ban. Singling out cell phone usage and banning that will not reduce any of the other behaviors.

    3. Compared to inattentive driving, there are actually worse issues, such as driving while tired, stressed, or otherwise less than optimally alert, which nearly everyone does. My morning commute is full of people who are not fully awake yet. Also, there is the issue of personality disorders. Most of my near-wrecks that happen on a constant basis (I drive 55 miles each way every day in a major city) are caused by drivers who start pulling over without looking or simply don't care. Road rage occurs at least weekly. Banning cell phones won't address any of this.

    Also, please note that not only is it the case that simple statistics show that the idea that a cell phone ban would not reduce fatality rates, the fact is that the studies that do purportedly show that cell phone usage causes an increased rate of accidents are all seriously flawed. For further edification, I have added some links to a very recent time-series study showing that polities that have enacted cell phone usage bans and have seen cell phone usage drop have not seen any reduction in either accident rates or fatalities.

    While I don't have it to hand, there was once a study reported in a car magazine I used to read that said, essentially, that people have a 'risk constant', and, if you make one section of a highway safer, the total fatalities do not necessarily go down; they just shift elsewhere on the same highway. If you successfully ban cell phone usage, you make my life worse, but you don't reduce the risk of travelling on the highway at all. By the principle of liberty, we must conclude that banning cell phone usage is not warranted.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phones_and_driving_safety

    http://www.digitaltrends.com/cars/aaa-study-suggests-phone-usage-while-driving-is-symptomatic-rather-than-being-the-cause-of-distracted-driving/

    http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/29/study-finds-that-reduced-phone-use-does-not-cut-crashes/?_r=0

    1. nilfs2
      Thumb Down

      Re: I voted no

      Driving requieres A LOT OF ATTENTION, I take you have never been on a bicycle or motorcycle on the streets and witnessed all the stupid shit that distracted drivers do and put our lives in danger, maybe you are too distracted on your phone and haven't noticed yet how many incidents you have caused because of your reckless, selfish behavior.

      Go give back your drivers license to the authorities, you are a danger on wheels for anyone around you, and you can use your bloody phone as much as you want in the bus.

  29. rtb61

    No Such Thing as an Accident

    Reality is there is no such thing as an accident on the road. Logically we should endeavour to find the causes of all accidents and they make adjustments in the law with regards to the entirety of vehicular activity, so as to reduce the number of incidents.

    With distractions a major cause of vehicular incidents, this could be mitigated with a more broad system of warnings, crossing traffic lane warnings, approaching traffic lights auditory warnings, major limits on road side advertising (signs et al, designed to specifically distract drivers), mandatory extended community service for those who caused the accident, slower traffic (allows more time for correction, can't safely maintain the higher speed, than slow it down), limiting vehicle performance (can't handle more powerful cars, simply regulate them to be less powerful) and black boxes in vehicles with record of vehicle activity leading up to incident and the phone goes with it.

    Why consider you break your neck in the accident because some idiot paid more attention to their phone than the traffic lights. You'll carry that for the rest of your miserable life and the person who caused, well, they get to keep their privacy and their insurance goes up a little, now is that in any way fair.

  30. Bob Dole (tm)
    Holmes

    Fundamental Problem

    The fundamental problem with laws like this is that they take an approach that is far more targeted than is necessary.

    When a crash is investigated all that matters is who was responsible. Questions such as did one of the vehicles pass through a red light? Did a vehicle enter another vehicles lane? Did one vehicle fail to stop in a timely manner? Those lead to culpability.

    Once the responsible party has been identified, the reasons for the failure only matter if they can be shown to engender forgiveness. For example, if a car swerved to avoid hitting a pedestrian and hit another car then that would be a good reason for reducing or eliminating liability.

    However the details of any other activities, such as texting, changing radio stations or eating, don't matter. Basically if the driver has no good reason for why they caused a wreck then they should be punished the same. By going this route, we don't need to give police permission to perform searches without a warrant. The final result is that we make the police persons job simpler and therefore the outcome more certain.

  31. yashimotohiro

    What Drivers in NY need is to simply carry 2 smart phones, your real phone and a "Go Phone". When your being pulled over, power off your real phone and then activate your go phone.

    Sure officer, scan away, heck here is my phone officer, I'll hand it to you. Oh there is nothing on there officer, well I don't use that phone very often, only for emergencies. what seems to be the problem?

    Well the officer will think that your fully co operating and say, oh I must be mistaken

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kickstarter

    Software for phones that detects the IF from car radio and uses that to mute audio and autorespond via text with current location via GPS, etc.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019