Texting and driving has often been compared to drinking and driving, and now law enforcement authorities could soon be equipped with a “textalyzer” to gauge whether a driver was texting in the moments before a crash, similar to the way a breathalyzer can determine how much a motorist has been drinking.
In April, a technology company called Cellebrite demonstrated a textalyzer device for lawmakers in New York, where legislation is being considered that would require motorists to turn their phones over to police to determine whether there was any texting activity or other form of distraction in play at the time of a crash or major violation.
The textalyzer helps address concerns over the invasion of privacy submitting one’s phone to the police presents. The device does not show, read, or collect data. It is plugged into the phone in question and detects only taps and swipes on the phone instead of the actual texts. No content would be downloaded.
The device also discerns whether the driver was using a mobile phone illegally by texting behind the wheel for example, or legally, such as operating it hands-free. Once hooked up to the mobile phone the textalyzer would be able to tell almost instantly whether a driver had been texting and driving just before a crash.
The textalyzer still faces some legal and technological hurdles before it can become part of any officer’s crime-busting toolbox. According to Fleet Owner, “Recent court rulings indicate that checking a person’s mobile phone by police is a greater invasion of privacy than a breathalyzer and should be held to stricter legal standards.”
Refusal to subject one’s phone to a textalyzer test could result in similar penalties those who refuse breathalyzer tests face, including arrest, fine, or other punitive action.