New York considering 'Textalyzer' technology for distracted driving enforcement

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 7/31/2017

Motorists in New York may find their mobile devices subjected to a test similar to drunk drivers. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently directed the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to look into what is called “Textalyzer” technology.

With distracted driving becoming a bigger factor in vehicle crashes, Gov. Cuomo wants investigators to use new technology that can determine whether or not a cellphone was used just before a crash. Textalyzer technology plugs into a cellphone and collects data that can reveal if and when the device was in use, including calls, texts, apps and even clicks or swipes.

“Despite laws to ban cellphone use while driving, some motorists still continue to insist on texting behind the wheel – placing themselves and others at substantial risk,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement. “This 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.”

Some are concerned about potential privacy issues. Part of the study will explore those concerns as well as the following:

  • Existing technology;
  • Constitutional and legal issues associated with the implementation and use of such technology;
  • Implementation and use of such technologies in other jurisdictions;
  • Statutory amendments necessary for the implementation and use of such technology in New York; and
  • Any other issues deemed necessary.

Israeli technology company Cellebrite is developing the technology. Cellebrite supplies law enforcement with mobile data forensics devices used to collect information from cellphones and other mobile devices. A representative could not immediately be reached.

According to the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, 12 people were killed in New York State and 2,784 people were injured in cellphone crashes from 2011 to 2015. Earlier this year, a Cambridge Mobile Telematics study revealed that phone distractions were involved in more than half of all crashes. A SmartDrive Systems study concluded that narrowed down to only mobile devices and other distractions, mobile device distractions had a rate of 87.5 percent more “near collisions.”

When accounting for the differences between large trucks and passenger vehicles, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts for 2015 revealed a significant finding. The report revealed that 94 percent of fatal truck crashes found the trucker was not distracted. Conversely, more than half (57 percent) of truck-car crashes found driver-related factors among the passenger vehicle driver.

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