Rebecca Bernard
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New York Ready to Unleash the Textalyzer

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We all know that distracted driving is one of the big dangers on the road. You never know if the car behind you will react fast enough when you brake hard because the driver is more focused on finding the next emoji than driving. Soon law enforcement officials might have a new tool to determine almost instantly if texting or other mobile phone use could be at fault in a traffic incident, if New York has its way.

Called the Textalyzer, playing off the name of the blood alcohol test meter the Breathalyzer, officers would plug in a driver’s phone to the system to determine if the phone had recently been used for any cellular activity that is illegal in the area. For example, the New York Times gave the example of its home state’s laws, which only permit talking on the phone while using a hands-free headset or system. A phone plugged in to the Textalyzer would tell police when any texts or calls that did not meet requirements were sent, and police would use a timeline to determine if that could have contributed to any accident.

New York is attempting to pass use of the Textalyzer into law, telling privacy advocates that officers would not know what messages said, just that they were sent. If the law is passed, drivers who refuse to hand over their phone would forfeit their license, just like drivers who refuse a Breathalyzer.

Before I pass judgment on this new law and device, I need a few more details. For example, I often listen to music from Spotify as I drive, and it streams through my phone that is connected via USB to my car’s infotainment system. I set the playlist that I want before I drive, but my phone is constantly accessing the internet to get a new song. If my phone was plugged in to the Textalyzer, would it show that I had illegally interacted with my phone while driving? Also, how would the police be able to account for other occupants of the car when testing a phone? When driving with a copilot, it’s not uncommon to hand off a cell phone to the non-driver to answer texts or change music and navigation settings.

This new device to monitor mobile phone usage is sure to spark protests and several appeals in the court system. If New York does pass its usage into law, we will have to see if other states follow suit.

News Source: The New York Times