New York Considers Polarizing ‘Textalyzer’ to Combat Distracted Driving
The state of New York is preparing to study the use of a device known as a “textalyzer” that would allow police to determine whether a motorist involved in a serious crash was texting while driving. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that he was encouragingÂ the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to examine the technology’s usefulness, as well as the privacy and constitutional questions it could raise.
Named to be intentionally reminiscent of the breathalyzer, likely for marketing purposes, theÂ textalyzer is framed by its designers as a device intendedÂ to identify whether a driver was interacting with their phone prior to a serious crash. However, there’s technically nothing stopping othersÂ from using this technology during a routine traffic stop down the line.
Last year, New York Senator Terrence Murphy and Assembly Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz partnered with Distracted Operators Risk Casualties (DORC) to propose a bill that would allow authorities to examine phones at an accident site. The move created a backlash from digital privacy advocates, who believeÂ the device is an invasion of personal liberties.Â Governor CuomoÂ has been supportive of the DORC in the past and has made the elimination of distracted driving a personal project.Â
â€œDespite laws to ban cellphone use while driving, some motorists still continue to insist on texting behind the wheel â€” placing themselves and others at substantial risk,â€ Cuomo said in a statement first reported by The Associated Press. â€œThis review will examine the effectiveness of using this new emerging technology to crack down on this reckless behavior and thoroughly evaluate its implications to ensure we protect the safety and privacy of New Yorkers.â€
New York banned the use of hand-held devices for all drivers in 2009. It’s one of 14 states to have implementedÂ such a ban. However, 47Â states and Washington, D.C., have a strict no-texting-while-drivingÂ policy.
Privacy and civil liberties groups already have questioned whether the textalyzerÂ would violate personal privacy, specifying that police are traditionally required to obtain search warrants before looking at a person’s phone. The device’s creator, Cellebrite, claims the unit would be able to analyzeÂ if a person was using the internet, texting, calling, or browsing apps, but would not have access to specific any specific data when completed. A finished product is months away, however.
â€œI am extremely nervous about handing a cellphone to a law enforcement officer and allowing them in any way to forensically analyze it,â€ says Rainey Reitman, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. â€œThis is a technology that is incredibly problematic and at the same time is unnecessary. There are already legal avenues for a police officer.â€
A committee will hear from supporters and opponents of the technology, law enforcement officials, and legal experts prior toÂ issuing a report on the device’s usefulness, Gov. Cuomo’s office said.
“We were the first state to adopt a motorcycle helmet law, a seat belt law for front-seat passengers and a cell-phone law,” said Terri Egan, executive deputy commissioner of the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, who is the acting leader of the committee. “We want to make sure we consider all the impacts of the technology carefully to best ensure public safety and effective enforcement of the law.”
Whether or not the technology is deemed effective, texting and driving remains a problem. New York’sÂ Traffic Safety Management and Research estimates 12 fatalities andÂ 2,784 injuries can be attributed to cell-phone related crashes between 2011 and 2015. Officers had also issued 1.2 million tickets for cellphone usage violations within that timeframe.
Senator Murphy is an advocate of the textalyzer. His earlier proposed bill outlined rules for how such a device would be used by police departments â€” including a stipulation where motorists who refuse to hand over their phones to officers could have their licenses suspended. He believes itâ€™s only a matter of time before New York and other states adopt the technology.
â€œItâ€™s not if, itâ€™s when,â€ he claimed. â€œThis will literally save lives.â€
via The Truth About Cars http://ift.tt/Jh8LjA
July 27, 2017 at 12:43PM