Family pushes for law that would scan for cell phone activity during the time of an accident

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Moving legislation forward to crack down on cell phone use by drivers has become part of one Westchester County father’s mission.

Newly proposed “Evans Law” would enforce a driver’s cell phone to be scanned for activity during the time of a crash — including texting, emailing, calls and Web browsing.

During the summer of 2011, 19-year-old Evan Lieberman was a backseat passenger when the vehicle he was riding in was hit by a driver who was later found to be on his phone at the time of the accident.

“I got the call that every parent dreads,” said Evan’s father, Ben Lieberman. “Evan was helicoptered to a trauma unit and it was an up-and-down battle but he died 31 days (after) right in front of our eyes.”

Lieberman launched Distracted Operators Risk Casulaties (DORCs) with co-founder Deborah Becker, whose son was in the same car crash, in an effort to change distracted driving behavior through educating the public, advocating for enforcement and fighting for legislation. 

Much like drunk driving awareness efforts, Evan’s Law has been proposed to hold driver’s accountable for their decisions when they get behind the wheel. Lawmakers say Evan’s Law should make driver’s think twice before choosing to use their cell phone.

Lieberman says the crash happened along Route 6 near the United States Military Academy at West Point.

“It took us six agonizing months to get the phone records (of the other driver) and we discovered there was texting throughout the drive leading up to the crash,” Lieberman said.

Evan’s Law would provide police with a protocol to check for cell phone usage with a “textalyzer.” If drivers refuse to allow their phones to be scanned, they could face a $500 fine or lose their license for up to a year.

“The issue here is to save lives and keep our roads safe,” said Felix Ortiz, (D) Assistant NYS Assembly Speaker for District 51, which covers a small portion of Brooklyn.

Ortiz wants to ensure that drivers are aware and are using common sense, and when common sense fails, there should be something that can be regulated.  

“This ‘textalyzer’ is very safe — it doesn’t interfere with any of the personal content of the cell phone. The privacy of the individual regarding the content on the cell phone is protected,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz and Sen. Terrence P. Murphy (R-Westchester) have been working on this bipartisan legislation that would make New York the first state to attempt a distracted driving policy solution that enables police to examine phones at an accident.

“It does feel like it just happened.  If you’re going to think about this a lot, you might as well do something positive with it,” Lieberman said.

The Lieberman family hopes something positive like this will save lives.

Lieberman says the technology is being developed by Cellebrite, although many companies have the capability to develop it.

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