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First the Breathalyzer, Now the Textalyzer

You’re driving in traffic. The car in front of you is not keeping up with the stop-and-go flow. That annoying driver is constantly looking down. Of course, the person’s texting — the most annoying and most dangerous of all modern traffic offenses.

But soon, there may be a way to put a dent in all those distracted drivers, thanks to a device called the “textalyzer.”

Much like a breathalyzer, it’s designed to be used in the field, on the spot. If you’re in an accident, police will be able to scan your phone with the textalyzer. It will tell them if you were texting at the time of the accident or moments before. Busted!

Republican New York State Sen. Terrence Murphy and Assembly Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz, a Democrat, announced last week they have proposed a bill allowing police to use the device. They hope to get it passed by the end June 20.

The idea of handing a cell phone to a cop raises all sorts of concerns.  To abide by those right-to-privacy issues, reports ArsTechnica.com, the textalyzer will not allow access to conversations, contacts, numbers, photos and application data. It will only show whether the phone was in use right before the incident or accident.

[lz_infobox]According to Distraction.gov, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2014.[/lz_infobox]

The new breathalyzer-type technology is being developed by an Israeli firm called Cellebrite. It’s the same firm that was said to be involved in helping the FBI hack into the iPhone at the center of the recent Apple battle. If the law passes, tech firms could bid on the project alongside Cellebrite. CEO Jim Grady said in a press release he hopes to see the textalyzer go into national use.

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The way the law would work is that drivers give “implied consent” for “determining whether the operator of a motor vehicle was using a mobile telephone or portable electronic device at or near the time of the accident or collision, which provides the grounds for such testing.”

The consequences will be serious, especially if you refuse to hand over your phone. Police will inform motorists involved in an accident that “the person’s license or permit to drive and any non-resident operating privilege shall be immediately suspended and subsequently revoked should the driver refuse to acquiesce to such field test.”

[lz_infobox]According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.[/lz_infobox]

Advocacy group Distracted Operators Risk Casualties (DORCs) has been working with the lawmakers to push the bill. DORCs’ co-founder Ben Lieberman has been a tireless advocate against distracted driving since his son, Evan, 19, was killed in a 2011 collision caused by a distracted driver. The cause of the accident was discovered after the Lieberman family subpoenaed the mobile phone records of the driver involved in the crash, which showed that the motorist was allegedly distracted while 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,” said Lieberman.