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Textalyzer technology aims to curb distracted driving

For years, safety advocates have warned of the dangers of new forms of distracted driving, particularly the use of smart phones while driving. Activists, law enforcement officials and lawmakers all over the country have tried various approaches to make drivers avoid texting or checking social media while driving so that they can concentrate on the road. Legislators in some states are considering a new approach they call the textalyzer.

Modeled after the breathalyzer machines police use to detect blood alcohol content, the textalyzer, would be able to quickly tell police whether people involved in motor vehicle accidents were using their phones immediately before the collision. The textalyzer consists of a device that can attach to a smart phone and reveal any activity on the device that occurred within a specified period beforehand. Authorities could then use this evidence to prosecute the driver. Victims of accidents caused by distracted drivers could also use this evidence to pursue personal injury claims against the distracted driver.

The U.S. Constitution limits the ability of police to search property. Generally, police do not have an automatic right to examine a driver's phone without the driver's consent. To look at a driver's phone, police would ordinarily need a search warrant. Proposed legislation in some states would provide police with the authority to use a textalyzer in certain situations.

The device could help resolve questions of whether drivers were distracted before an accident, and could strongly discourage drivers from using their smart phones while on the road. However, many people have raised privacy concerns about these proposals, arguing that phones are the private property of people and that messages could be deeply personal and irrelevant to any investigation into an accident.

If you have been injured in an accident and you suspect that the other driver was texting at the time of the crash, it can be helpful to speak to a personal injury attorney about your legal options..

Source: WBOI, "'Textalyzer' aims to curb distracted driving, but what about privacy?" David Schaper, April 27, 2017.

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