April 13, 2016
New York To Combat Distracted Driving With Text-Finding Tool, The Textalyzer

Distracted driving kills eight people and injures more than 1,000 every day. And this year, for the first time in a decade, the number of car crashes in the U.S. has spiked. The cause? Texting.

A device called the textalyzer could change all that, detecting this dangerous form of distracted driving.

Drivers who take their eyes off the road to read or send or text can travel the length of a football field while distracted, and after their distracted driving causes a car accident, police need a way to prove that texting is to blame.

"Since drunk driving is down and today's cars are built better than ever, the addition of mobile devices in our lives becomes the most likely reason for this sudden increase, " said Deborah Becker, co-founder, said of Distracted Operators Risk Casualties (DORC), according to CNBC.

New York lawmakers have proposed a bill that will add the textalyzer to the police officer's tool kit. They have worked with Ben Lieberman, DORC co-founder, to draft the law, according to The New York Daily News.

"When people were held accountable for drunk driving, that's when positive change occurred," he said. "It's time to recognize that distracted driving is a similar impairment, and should be dealt with in a similar fashion. This is a way to address people who are causing damage."

Lieberman's son, Evan, was killed by a distracted driver in 2011 and the bill has been called "Evan's Law" in his honor, ABC News added.

"People are going to be amazed at how much this affects us. You're impaired to the level of drunk driving."
The textalyzer bill has been sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy and Assembly Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz. A cornerstone of the technology is that it will determine whether or not someone was texting around the time of a collision by scanning their phone, but without violating their privacy.

"Empowering our law enforcement with technology, which is able to immediately determine cell phone usage without an inquiry into the content will allow enforcement of these laws after an accident while still protecting essential privacy rights," the bill reads.

The bill would provide police with the textalyzer for field testing after a collision; the crash itself gives police grounds to use the device. The driver would have to provide consent, but if they don't they could lose their license.

According to the textalyzer bill, the electronic scan of a phone would not include the "content or origin of any communication, game conducted, image or electronic data viewed." In other words, a cop would only be able to determine whether or not someone was texting before an accident, but not view their photos, messages, or private data.

However, as reported by Popular Mechanics, some people worry that the textalyzer could violate Fourth Amendment rights to reasonable search and seizure. This could be an issue if police require unrestricted access to check for "extenuating circumstances," like whether a text was sent through a voice command.

A firm in Israel called Cellebrite (which recently helped the FBI unlock the San Bernardino terrorist's phone), has developed a technology that checks a smartphone's recent activity, but they'd have to lessen the extent of that technology's capabilities to develop the textalyzer.

If the legislation is passed, Cellebrite will also have to bid and compete against other tech firms to build a textalyzer.

The legislation is the first of its kind and is still in committee. If it's approved by the legislature, it would and allow police to conduct the test in the field just like they now do with a breathalyzer.

A study last year revealed that a third of drivers have sent texts while driving, and in 2013, 27 percent of crashes involved people driving while talking or texting.

[Photo By vichni / Shutterstock]