A new Textalyzer device, proposed by the state of New York, is the latest weapon being put forward in the fight against distracted driving.
Much like the breathalyzer, the Textalyzer would enable law enforcement personnel to check the cell phones of drivers involved in accidents. A bill proposing the Textalyzer is currently moving through the New York State Legislature.
Here at YouImpact, which offers an online course built on the concept of victim impact panels, we applaud legislation like this aimed at changing people’s behavior and attitudes on distracted driving and impaired driving. YouImpact has served as a catalyst for behavioral change for those who have completed our online program.
Here’s how the Textalyzer would work: An officer arriving at the scene of a vehicle crash could ask for the phones of the drivers involved. Then the Textalyzer would be used to tap into the operating system of each cell phone to determine recent activity.
The digital device would be able to determine if the driver had used the phone to text, email or do anything else that is considered illegal under New York’s hands-free driving laws, which prohibits drivers from holding phones to their ears. Those who refuse to hand over their phones could face suspension of their driver’s license.
While some have already expressed privacy concerns, officials say the device would not give officers access to the contents of a phone’s texts or emails. It would just show the activity.
Proponents of the bill say there is a need for such a law that can help change people’s behavior. If it becomes law, more drivers will be afraid to put their hands on their phones, they say. And it could lead to more states adopting a similar law, spreading in the same way New York’s hands-free law did. Listen to this report from NPR featuring the father who came up with the Textalyzer idea.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,179 people killed and an additional 431,000 injured in 2014 in collisions involving distracted drivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. And at any given time during the day in 2014, more than 587,000 vehicles were being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone.
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