Texting while driving remains a commonplace and dangerous practice. The New York Times suggests it is actually getting worse with drivers not only texting, but taking selfies and using other apps and social media sites while on the road. The article estimates road fatalities were up 8% from 2014-2015 due to the increase in distracted driving.

Concern is growing as the problem rises, despite laws in place in most states to ban cell phone use and texting by drivers, and efforts by public service campaigns to increase awareness for this issue. The New York Times article describes lawmakers’ and public health experts’ new plans to conquer this widespread issue. They are getting creative and looking at ways to deter drivers from texting while driving.

One idea that is getting significant attention is a roadside test called the “Textalyzer”, introduced by lobbyists from New York. The New York Times article describes that the Textalyzer, the digital sister of the Breathalyzer, would be used by officers at the scene of a crash to tap into the operating system of the involved drivers’ phones to look at recent activity. The goal would be to determine if the driver had been using their phone to engage in activity against the New York hands-free driving laws, such as text, email, etc. It would determine if the phone was recently in use. If a driver refused to hand over their phone to be analyzed by the Textalyzer, they could face drivers’ license suspension or other penalties.

The article acknowledges that this proposed legislation is controversial, in terms of becoming law, and faces privacy concerns and other potential obstacles. The argument is that the Textalyzer would show whether phones were recently in use without revealing private information, such as the content of text messages, etc. However, many will find this hard to believe and/or still a significant breach of privacy. The future of the Textalyzer remains to be seen, but it is certainly catching people’s attention!

The legislation was proposed by a group of lobbyists known as DORCs, Distracted Operators Risk Casualties with the goals of raising awareness significantly around the dangerousness of distracted driving, actually deterring people from engaging in the practice, and ultimately saving lives. The thought is that if this legislation does pass in New York it could easily spread to other states, similar to the way New York paved the way for hands-free laws in other nationwide.

Please see our recent blog posting about distracted driving:  April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Our post highlights Washington State’s existing laws around cell phone use and texting while driving.  Pledge to make a commitment to be part of the effort to end distracted driving, in order to protect the lives of ourselves and the people around us. One text or call could wreck it all!