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New York Cops Looking at Device to Detect Texting Drivers

Rear view close up to a young driver wearing glasses and a cap, texting and driving.

If you’re stopped for a DUI, you’ll probably be asked by the police to blow into a breathalyzer to determine the level of alcohol in your blood. Register above the legal limit of .08 and you’re likely headed for a slew of unpleasantries associated with a DUI conviction.


Over the past few years another reckless behavior has taken the attention away from driving while drunk. The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes per year, and texting while driving leads to approximately 330,000 injuries annually.


Until now, there hasn’t been a tool like the breathalyzer to combat distracted driving. But, that may be about to change.


Enter the “textalyzer”


Enter the “textalyzer” – a device New York lawmakers are looking to introduce through a new bill that would allow police agencies within the state to see if a cellphone was in use by the driver at the time of an accident. And, while habitual texters are likely to believe the term “textalyzer” is a silly name for a device that doesn’t exist, they could soon be in for an unexpected surprise.


That’s because, according to Engadget, an Israeli company called Cellebrite has already developed the technology in the form of a roadside device. In addition, Ars Technica reports that, although a number of companies will be allowed to bid, Cellebrite is rumored to be the front-runner after assisting federal agents attempting to break into the iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino, California shooters.


Behind the legislation is the lobbying group Distracted Operators Risk Casualties, whose founder, Ben Lieberman, lost his teenage son to a distracted driver. Under the proposed law, drivers involved in a crash would be required to submit their cellphones to police for testing.


Privacy laws apply


Since privacy laws would apply, the so-called textalyzer wouldn’t have the ability to read your contacts or what you write in your texts. However, it would still provide the police with valuable information, such as if your phone was in use before and during the crash.


Furthermore, as with the breathalyzer in a DUI stop, refusing to allow the phone to be scanned by the police would result in the immediate revocation of your driver’s license. Given the well-established fact that driving drunk is dangerous, causing about 27 deaths every day, and with distracted driving becoming more prevalent, Lieberman believes something has to be done – and, he’d be right.


Consider the consequences


Whether you text and drive or drink and drive, consider the consequences before you engage in either one. Keeping your car insurance rates low is a good motivator – but, putting your safety and the safety of others on the road should be your first priority.

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