1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.
Over the last eight years, at least 46 states have passed laws barring texting while driving and 14 ban all hand-held devices.
Public service campaigns have tried an array of tactics
— “It can wait,” among them — to persuade people to put down their phones when they are behind the wheel, but safety advocates say those laws need enforcement.
When a father lost his 19-year-old son to a head-on collision, he decided to channel his grief into an amendment proposal that would allow New York police at accident scenes to examine drivers’ cell phones to see if they’d been tapping, swiping, or clicking. Ben Lieberman is partnering up with the company Cellebrite, an Israeli technology company that specializes in data extraction, to develop the plug-in device nicknamed the “Textalyzer”.
The device is a scaled-back version of a more intensive phone-scraping technology created by Cellebrite, who promises that the device doesn’t give access to personal conversations or apps.
Instead, the Textalyzer only determines if the phone was in use at the time of the accident, with the option for a more in-depth crawl should the police officer obtain a warrant.
It would work like this:
An officer arriving at the scene of a crash could ask for the phones from drivers involved and use the Textalyzer to tap into the operating system to check for recent activity.
The technology could determine whether a driver had used the phone to text, email or do anything else that is forbidden under New York’s hands-free driving laws, which prohibit drivers from holding phones to their ear.
Failure to hand over a phone could lead to the suspension of a driver’s license, similar to the consequences for refusing a Breathalyzer.
In Tennessee, state lawmakers stated that texting while driving is equivalent to driving while intoxicated, and since 2009, the act is illegal and punishable by law. Enforcing this rule, however, has proven to be difficult because a warrant for cell phone records is required. So they are also working on a Textalyzer Bill to allow a constitutionally sound law.
Similar legislation is being considered in New Jersey, and Chicago.