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Texting and Driving "Textalyzer": Does it keep you safe or violate your right to privacy?

There is no national ban on texting and driving, however, many states including Utah have created laws banning texting and driving. Even though a recent poll suggests that 90% of American drivers agree that texting and driving is unsafe, The Federal Communications Commission reports that:

  • At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.
  • In 2015, the National Occupant Protection Use Survey reported that handheld cell phone use continued to be highest among 16-24 year old drivers.

    To combat this rising risk on the road, new technology is constantly rolling out to discourage and prevent cell phone use while driving.

    One device in particular caught our attention from a legal standpoint: the Textalyzer. Cellebrite, a company that specializes in mobile forensics, was commissioned by Ben Lieberman (after his son was killed in an accident caused by texting and driving) to develop a device that could determine whether a driver was using a cell phone in the moments before a crash.

    NPR wrote an article about the device describing how it works as well as what lawmakers have to say about it. 

    "A police officer just goes to the driver and attaches a cord to connect the device to the phone. The driver doesn't even have to let go of the device."

    The officer taps a button, the device processes for a few seconds and then it shows time stamped recent activity.

    The developers say the device will be "tailored to what's legal in each jurisdiction that approves its use." In addition, it will "only capture taps and swipes to determine if a driver was using the phone--that it would not download content--and that it would be able to tell if the driver was using a phone legally, hands free."

    New York state has put forward a bill to allow police to use this device. It has already passed through one committee and is pending in another. But civil rights advocates are concerned that this bill poses a threat to rights of privacy. Cell phones contain personal and private information and the ability for police officers to seize personal property without a search warrant is an issue for many lawmakers.

    In response to the concern for the right to privacy, developers are taking the "applied consent" approach. Drivers can refuse to take the Textalyzer test. Lieberman states: "You wouldn't go to jail for refusing to submit to a test, but you could lose the privilege afforded to you by the Department of Motor Vehicles in granting you a driver's license."

    Lieberman knows that the Textalyzer won't completely stop cell phone use among drivers but hopes that it will increase awareness, raise the stakes, and hold people accountable for distracted driving to the same extent as drunk driving.

    Several other states including Utah are looking into creating more strict laws regarding cell phone use as well as employing the Textalyzer technology. We will keep you informed about how this will affect drivers in our state.

    In the meantime, if you or someone you know has been the victim of an accident caused by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us for a FREE consultation. We can help.

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