NEW ROCHELLE, NY — State Senator George Latimer is co-sponsoring legislation in the New York State Senate that would allow police officers to mandatorily check the mobile phones of any participant in a traffic collision to determine if they were texting or talking right before the accident. The bill was proposed in the wake of the death of Evan Lieberman, a nineteen-year-old college freshman from Chappaqua, NY who was killed in a motor vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver.
When he was involved in his own traffic collision on July 21st, Latimer did not turn over his phone records to police, according to a New Rochelle Police Department Incident Report obtained by Talk of the Sound through a Freedom of Information Act.
After the collision on Wilmot Road, Latimer made an implausible claim to police of being “temporarily blinded” by the sun, to explain a collision. The second driver states she entered the intersection when the light was green. Latimer told police he could not see the color of the traffic light but entered the intersection anyway. Both drivers were injured. After the collision with the second vehicle, Latimer crossed a double-yellow line, drove into a lane of oncoming traffic, then off the roadway, through a fence and into a tree.
Latimer has a history of publishing photos on social media which appear to show him using his mobile phone while driving.
On July 22nd, Latimer posted an image to Twitter with the ironical caption, “Here, there and everywhere. Back south from Bedford, having hit Purchase, New Rochelle and Mamaroneck earlier” (emphasis added). The photo appears to indicate that the day after being involved in a serious car crash, Latimer took a photograph while driving using his mobile phone. The location where the photo was taken is a Southbound lane on I-684 South near the high-traffic area around the intersection with I-287, about 8 miles from Chappaqua.
According to an Allstate Insurance press release, “the Reality Rides simulator is a stationary vehicle with virtual reality LED screens across the windshield, displaying animated scenarios drivers often encounter. Using the steering wheel, gas and brake pedals, operators try to navigate those situations while also attempting to text message, answer phone calls or use in-car technology like GPS, all activities that frequently distract drivers in real life. Afterward, participants receive “traffic citations” that highlight real infractions they’ve committed during their simulations.”
Latimer did not respond to an email with questions about the matter including whether he intends to make his phone records available as is called for in the law he is supporting.
Senate Bill S2306 (A395), currently in Committee, provides for the field testing for use of mobile telephones and portable electronic devices while driving after an accident or collision.
According to the Senate web site, the purpose of bill is to “increase enforcement of existing prohibitions on the use of mobile telephones and/or personal electronic devices while driving through the creation of a field test that law enforcement may conduct at the scene of the accident.”
The bill states “”distracted driving is as dangerous, if not more so than driving while intoxicated” and therefore “every person operating a motor vehicle that has been involved in an accident or collision involving damage to real or personal property, personal injury or death, and who has in his or her possession at or near the time of such accident or collision a mobile telephone or personal electronic device must submit, at the request of the police officer, his or her mobile telephone or personal electronic device to the police officer solely for the purpose of field testing such device.”
If the bill became law, every person who operates a motor vehicle in the state shall be deemed to have given consent to field testing of his or her mobile telephone and/or personal electronic device for the purpose of determining the use thereof while operating a motor vehicle and refusal to submit a mobile telephone or personal electronic device to the field testing will result in the revocation of the driver’s license or permit.
According to the bill, “Distracted driving is the leading cause of accidents among young drivers, and has led to a significant increase in overall accidents among drivers of all ages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that every day in this country nine people are killed, and more than 1,153 are injured, in accidents involving a distracted driver. This roughly equates to one in five accidents per year caused by distracted driving, and the problem only continues to escalate.