Drivers in collisions in the state of New York may soon have their smartphones checked for activity through the use of the Textalyzer.
Using a handheld device while driving is being compared to driving drunk in terms of its potential for causing serious accidents and traffic-related deaths.
Yet, drivers of all ages can be seen looking at their smartphones while driving. Some can be seen typing a text message while driving, which is certainly distracting from the actual driving exercise, and in some cases, might actually require two hands, which makes proper driving technique very difficult.
Many states have banned the manual use of mobile devices while driving, but unlike drunk driving, text driving can be easily covered. Unless the driver is actually witnessed using the mobile device at the time of an accident, it is difficult to prove the driver was doing so.
But the state of New York is pursuing a path that can in fact determine if a driver in an automobile accident was using his or her phone at the time of the accident.
Unofficially called “The Textalyzer’’, one company claims to have a device that can be plugged into any smartphone or cellphone and determine its last use. It can determine the function that was being applied and the exact time it was employed. It is the text-driving equivalent of the Breathalyzer.
The New York State Senate is considering a bill that would provide this tool to police officers in order to determine whether a driver in an accident was distracted by using a smartphone at the time of the accident.
There are legal ramifications. The New York bill, if passed, would not require officers to have a warrant to analyze the device. It is not yet known what would happen if a driver refused to allow to have their smartphone analyzed.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union claims the so-called Textalyzer could certainly be used to see who was being texted or what website was being accessed, which would constitute a violation of privacy.
The problem definitely requires a solution. According to the National Safety Council, car crash statistics are on the rise for the first time in a decade. Awareness of drunk driving laws and penalties has reduced that danger, but the increase of mobile device use is considered the cause of the increase.
In 2015, the National Safety Council said cell phone-related collisions rose for the third consecutive year and accounts for more than 25 percent of all crashes in the country. While the total includes all accidents which occur when a driver is holding on to a mobile device, the National Safety Council said conversations using hands-free devices do not prevent distracted driving accidents.
The New York legislators are in conversations with the Israel-based technology company Cellebrite, which claims to have a device it calls Infield, which is capable of extracting usage data from smartphones quickly.
“This user-friendly mobile forensic solution enables users to forensically extract and decode mobile device data such as call logs, contacts, calendar, text messages, media files and more,’’ the company reports on its website. “Intuitive graphical viewing and filtering capabilities allow users to quickly narrows searches, tag important content and generate and share reports as needed.”
The first sentence of the product description would alert privacy law advocates, while the second sentence basically states the device could be set to narrow the search to parameters set by the law.
Mariko Hirose, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union, says the “Textalyzer” is a clear violation of privacy laws.
“There are so many ways in which somebody could be using the phone in a car that is not a violation of the law,’’ Hirose said. “The bill is simply providing a way for law enforcement to get around the privacy protections that apply to a cellphone.”
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.