N.J. Bill Seeks Crackdown On Distracted Driving By Forcing Drivers To Hand Over Phones
A bill proposed Monday in the New Jersey State Senate would require drivers involved in an accident to hand over their phones — no warrant necessary.
Motorists were mixed on the proposal aimed at cracking down on distracted driving.
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Troublingly, no warrant is required for this search. Law enforcement must merely possess reasonable grounds on which to search. New Jersey already has an active ban on the use of handheld cellular devices. Drivers can be pulled over for reading or writing a text message. Just in May, new legislation imposed fines on drivers that texted, with $200 to $400 for first time offenders. However, supporters of the legislation still point to the numerous accidents caused solely because of distracted driving.
Senator James Holzapfel said that the law was no different from the one impacting drivers that have an open container of alcohol with them on the road and that it was unlikely that a police officer, however vigilant, would witness an accident firsthand.
NJ Legislature considers bill that would let officers search cellphones without a warrant following motor vehicle crashes
Authorities say the bill would require reasonable grounds for searching a phone.
The state’s Highway Traffic Safety Division says there were 1,840 handheld cellphone-related crashes in New Jersey in 2011, resulting in 807 injuries and six deaths.
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“This bill is problematic because it infringes on the privacy rights of citizens,” said Alexander Shalom, the ACLU’s state policy counsel. “Our state and federal constitutions generally require probable cause before authorizing a search, particularly when it comes to areas that contain highly personal information such as cell phones.”
Steve Carrellas, New Jersey representative of the National Motorists Association, said he doubts the bill would solve any problems and whether it would be implemented fairly.