‘Textalyzer’ may be the new breathalyzer
Friday, August 25, 2017
In 2015, 391,000 individuals were injured and 3,477 were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In New York state, 2,784 were injured and 12 people were killed in cellphone-related crashes from 2011-2015. During that time, 1.2 million tickets were issued for cellphone violations, according to The Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research.
Police in New York state want to reduce these numbers and are looking at a high-tech way of doing so with the "textalyzer." Ever since New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will study textalyzers, the devices have been a topic of much discussion.
The textalyzer would act just like a breathalyzer for text messaging, and it would allow police in New York to penalize drivers for texting while driving. The tablet-like tool would plug into an individual's phone for about a minute to access and stream information about the time and nature of use, from calls and texts to emails viewed and websites visited. The Israel-based tech company Cellebrite is developing the device, and it will be ready in a few months.
If texting habits have led to serious accidents, they need to be identified right away and curbed. The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee will examine the technology as well as look into the legal issues like privacy and constitutional rights.
Cellphone use while driving has been banned for a while. Yet drivers frequently talk or text, both causes of distraction while on the road. They only stop when they see a police car, and even then some surreptitiously continue to text. This kind of reckless behavior needs to stop, for their own good and for others.
The administration hopes textalyzers would have the same sobering effect like the breathalyzers have for drunk driving. New York led the way for adopting new laws like the seat belt law for front-seat passengers, motorcycle helmet law and a cellphone law. Now they want to be the first to adopt textalyzers and make the roads safer.
Civil liberties groups and cybersecurity experts are concerned that this will violate personal privacy. They say the police should have access to this information only with a legitimate search warrant.
Proponents of the technology say that there is nothing to worry about. According to them, the textalyzer will only release information relevant to the investigation. The device will show the authorities a basic breakdown of recently opened apps, swipes and screen taps along with the time stamp and outgoing direction and message source.
It won't provide details of what you been texting but whether you have broken the law by texting while driving. That should assure everyone that the right balance between public safety and privacy will be maintained.
The committee appointed for the purpose will listen to both sides of the argument before offering practical advice.
Intrusive or innovative, the device is worth looking into. In the 1950s and 1960s, 50 percent of traffic-related deaths in the U.S. were due to drunk driving. The use of breathalyzers contributed in reducing these figures to about 30 percent today.
If textalyzers can curb cellphone use, and therefore reduce distracted driving, they will be a big help for all.
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