“Breathalyzer for Texting” Could Help Reduce Distracted Driving

March 19, 2019

New York is considering legalizing the use of a device that would allow police to test for cellphone use at the scene of a car crash, or to be used if distracted driving is suspected.

The device is called the ‘Textalyzer’, named after the breathalyzer for its similar investigative purpose. Police would plug the device into a phone and scan for recent activity, like texting, social media usage or web browsing.

This device was previously considered in 2017 due to the peak in auto accident injuries and deaths related to cell phone usage. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Transportation, distracted driving contributed to 3,450 auto fatalities in 2016, 14% of which were linked to cell phone usage.

Advocates of the ‘Textalyzer’ believe that it will not only deter distracted driving, but it will also lead to consequences for those guilty. Kris Cyr, who lost her 17-year-old daughter to a texting and driving accident, is one of those advocates.

“I try to send the message that one bad choice or decision on your end can end your life, if there’s any technology out there that’s going to make people pause, and think before they act, bring it on,” she said.

There are many sides to every story however, and there are many who will fight the legalization of the device, believing it to be an invasion of privacy. Sgt. David Kaiser with the Gates Police Department believed the textalyzer to have “some major Fourth Amendment issues.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) contested the device stating it would violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. They believe it shouldn’t be used by law enforcement without first obtaining a warrant.

Cellebrite, creator of the ‘Textalyzer’ and a partner of Law Enforcement investigative teams for more than 20 years in digital data analysis, claims the device would only analyze cell phones for recent activity, not the content exchanged. The device would analyze the type of activity, timestamp when the activity took place, and also decipher if the activity was made in hands free mode or not.

If legislation legalizes the ‘Textalyzer’, Cellebrite believes, “Law Enforcement would be empowered with a powerful tool to help combat against the rise of distracted driving and would be able to prevent unnecessary injuries and fatalities that resulted from a driver’s disregard for public safety.”

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