Proposed "Textalyzer": Instant Identification Of Distracted Drivers?

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According to Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, motor vehicle accidents cause almost 43% of all traumatic spinal cord injuries in the province. At the root of many such accidents is distracted driving.

Recognizing the serious public safety threat posed by the growing problem of texting and driving, New York lawmakers are proposing a new bill that could see "textalzyer" devices become standard equipment for police officers investigating car accident scenes. Whether the bill becomes law and makes its way north of the border to Ontario remains to be seen.

Similar in concept to breathalyzer devices that police currently use to measure a driver's blood alcohol content, the "textalyzer" allows police to scan cell phones at the scene of an accident in order to determine if drivers had been using their devices at the moment of impact.

The manufacturer claims that its textalyzer device scans service history alone and does not automatically expose the cell phone's actual content. But since the bill would essentially allow police to demand access to a driver's phone without first obtaining a warrant, opponents of the bill point out the technology's potential for misuse and invasion of privacy rights.

Currently, call and texting data is obtainable where distracted driving is suspected in accidents. But warrants and legal procedures are required, and advocates of the textalyzer claim that in practice, officials rarely search phone records.

Existing distracted driving laws provide an initial framework for addressing the increasing problem of distracted driving. Police use of textalyzers may be the next key that provides both instant, post-accident cell phone analysis and a deterrent for drivers.

Meanwhile, driver vigilance is still the best preventative measure to keep our roads safe and prevent serious injury to all.


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