New device could catch texting drivers, cutting down on crashes

Tennessee is among the majority of states to enact a ban on texting while driving. But cellphone use behind the wheel continues to be a major safety hazard. According to the National Safety Council, cellphone use (including texting, talking, web, etc.) was to blame in more than 25 percent of car accidents last year.

Because distracted driving is so likely to cause a serious crash, law enforcement agencies naturally want to catch drivers in the act before they injure themselves or others. But it turns out that citing a driver for texting or other cellphone use is not easy. Without legal access to the person’s phone, it is difficult to prove that they were doing what the officer saw them doing. So what’s the solution?

A new device may help police officers in much the same way that a breathalyzer helps detect drunk driving. The “textalyzer” is a tool that, once connected to a cellphone, can extract important data from that phone. In a law enforcement setting, some say it could be used to determine if a driver was texting in the seconds leading up to a crash or just before being pulled over. To protect privacy, the textalyzer could extract only the data on whether or not the phone was being used. It would not pull information on contacts or the specific content of messages.

Of course, this new device would likely need to be legally approved before police could use it in any given state. And right now, only New York legislators are considering a bill to put textalyzers in the field.

With any law, and especially with those related to technology, privacy rights are an important concern. But privacy rights must be carefully balanced against public safety interests. Hopefully, that is a balance that law enforcement will be able to achieve with this device.

In the meantime, distracted drivers who cause car accidents can be held legally liable in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by a distracted driver, please discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney.