"Textalyzer" Technology Could Soon Test Whether You Were Texting and Driving

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In order to crack down on texting and driving, the technology company Cellebrite is developing a so-called “textalyzer” to measure the phone activity of drivers. While the traditional breathalyzer calculates a driver’s blood alcohol level to determine whether they were driving impaired, the textalyzer will scan phones and other mobile devices to determine whether they were recently in use.

Ars Technica explains that the textalyzer would enable police officers to check phones at crash sites or during roadside stops. Since snooping through a driver’s text histories and records of app use would be a major breach of privacy, the textalyzer will show whether phones were in use without revealing private information. The goal is to find out whether texting or distracted phone use came into play during a crash, and to discourage phone use while driving.

A group of lobbyists called Distracted Operators Risk Casualties (DORCs) in New York recently proposed legislation that would make submitting to textalyzer tests mandatory after a crash. The Verge explains that if the legislation is approved, police officers would be allowed to give roadside textalyzer tests in much the same way breathalyzer tests are currently administered.

The goal, according to DORCs, is to deter texting and driving, and raise awareness about distracted driving. ”The general public knows distracted driving is a problem, but if people knew the extent of the damage caused by this behavior, they would be amazed," Ben Lieberman of DORCS said in a statement. "With our current laws, we're not getting accurate information because the issue is not being addressed at the heart of the problem—with the people causing the collisions."  

While it's possible to view the textalyzer as an invasion of privacy, Lieberman claims keeping phone information private is a high priority. "I have often heard there is no such thing as a breathalyzer for distracted driving—so we created one," said Lieberman. "Respecting drivers' personal privacy, however, is also important, and we are taking meticulous steps to not violate those rights."

[h/t Ars Technica]