Tech News

By: Nick Gambino

The State of New York is trying to pass legislation that will allow cops to use “textalyzers” on the side of the road to pick up when a driver was texting.

With the advent of smartphones, mobile communication whether through text, e-mail, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, etc. has become as easy as taking your eyes off the road and tapping your fingers on a lit up screen in front of your face.

I think we can all acknowledge the safety dilemma that comes into play when we text and drive but for some reason it all too often is followed by “Well, that wouldn’t ever happen to me. I can drive with my eyes closed.” Unfortunately, “driving with your eyes closed” is a very good analogy. Studies have shown that it takes an average of 5 seconds to look away from the road, answer a text, then look back. If you’re going 55 mph that’s about the time it would take you to drive across an entire football field.

The National Safety Council released reports that about 1.6 million vehicle crashes a year stem from use of a cell phone. It hits home even more when you hear that every day 11 teens die because they were texting while driving. This is what cops in New York are trying to address by adopting textalyzers to tell them exactly when your phone was actively sending text messages. They won’t be able to use this device like a radar gun, hanging out on the side of the road and pulling over any cars that fail the test. That wouldn’t make sense as the device would pick up anybody sending texts even if they’re just a passenger.

Rather it would be used after an accident or once the car is pulled over. Much like the breathalyzer the device would be used to detect the potential cause of reckless driving. This would in theory help to decrease accidents by nailing those who are arrogant enough to continually text and drive.

The Israeli-based company Cellbrite is actively developing this technology with the intention of only allowing law enforcement to see whether texts were being sent, not the actual content of the phone.

“We look forward to supporting DORCs [Distracted Operators Risk Casualties] and law enforcement – both in New York and nationally – to curb distracted driving.” Cellbrite CEO Jim Grady says.

Though they may succeed in developing the tech to make sure it does not violate any privacy laws there are other concerns. This opens up a whole new market of software to be developed to evade detection. And with knowledge of the NSA’s invasion of privacy it’s hard to fully trust this type of technology in the hands of the government.

First things first, the legislation needs to be passed and currently that’s only in New York. I’ll tell you one thing, it’s nice to see that something’s being done to actively combat texting and driving.

Is the textalyzer a good idea or bad idea? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or mention us on Twitter.

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Nick Gambino is a regular script writer and tech beat reporter for NewsWatch.  He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.


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