Cell phones could become the latest piece of forensic evidence in traffic accidents if one New Jersey lawmaker gets his way.
The bill, introduced by state Republican Sen. James Holzapfel of Ocean, allows police to temporarily confiscate drivers’ cellphones if they suspect that the driver was using their mobile device while operating the vehicle. Executive Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the ACLU, Udi Offer, visited Weekends with Alex Witt to voice his concern about the pending legislation.
Offer said that “This bill would authorize the police to engage in unconstitutional searches of cell phones.” Specifically, Offer said the bill as lowering the standard for search of personal information to “little more than a hunch.” He said the bill runs up against the right to privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, and that, “If the state legislature did pass this bill, it would be ultimately struck down as unconstitutional.”
The New Jersey Division of Highway and Traffic Safety registered 1,840 cell phone related crashes and six fatalities in 2011, the latest year on record. Another study by the National Safety Council found that only 1.2% of all automobile crashes involve cell phone use. New Jersey automobile accidents yield an even lower rate with only 0.7% of wrecks linked to cell phone use.
Offer admits that distracted driving is a real issue, but said that, “This bill won’t fix that problem.” Instead he urged Holzapfel to refocus his energies on a campaign to educate the public about the dangers of driving while using a cell phone.