Until recently, traffic fatalities in North Carolina and nationwide were on a path of steady decline. Recent statistics from 2015, however, suddenly reversed this trend. According to researchers, traffic deaths in 2015 spiked roughly 8 percent over the previous year. While researchers haven’t identified the cause of this rise with certainty, they note that the increase in fatalities corresponds with growing cell phone and social media usage while driving. Cell phone scrolling, texting and selfies are unfortunately all too common on the roads, especially among young drivers—and they pose a serious public safety problem.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 1.6 million auto accidents per year occur in the United States due to texting alone. This figure makes up approximately 25 percent of crashes nationwide. Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that nine fatalities and 1,153 injuries occur on any given day in accidents caused by distracted drivers.
To combat road fatalities caused by distracted driving, lawmakers in New York have proposed Evan’s Law, a bill that would introduce a new law enforcement tool called the Textalyzer. This device basically offers a smartphone-sensitive equivalent to the Breathalyzer, and it would allow officers to detect recent activity on cell phones in the case of road accidents or traffic violations.
How the Textalyzer Works
Israeli tech company Cellebrite began developing the technology behind the Textalyzer in 2015 after safety advocate Ben Lieberman, co-founder of the group Distracted Operators Risk Casualties, approached the company with the intent to develop a technology that could detect distracted driving. Evan’s Law, which would implement this technology in police departments across New York, is named after Lieberman’s son, who was killed by a distracted driver in 2011. The bill is currently in committee in the New York senate.
In North Carolina, where texting and driving is illegal, law enforcement officials have already said that they’ve struggled to prosecute distracted driving due to the difficulty of proving that someone was using a cell phone. With a Textalyzer on hand, though, an officer could ask for the phone of the driver and use the device to identify recent activity. The operating system could search for recent text, email, and app activity. In an effort to comply with privacy laws, Cellebrite says that its Textalyzer can extract only usage data and not personal information.
Similar to cases of suspected drinking and driving, the bill would require drivers to hand over their phones for testing when prompted, with the prospect of fines, license revocation, or even arrest if they refuse.
“We need something on the books where people’s behavior can change,” said Félix W. Ortiz, a Democratic assemblyman in New York and a sponsor of the bipartisan Textalyzer bill. If the Textalyzer bill becomes law, he added, “people are going to be more afraid to put their hands on the cellphone [while driving].”
While New York is the first state to propose a technology-assisted anti-distraction measure like this, supporters believe the Textalyzer could spread to other states that are seeking to crack down on traffic fatalities due to distracted driving
Could the Textalyzer Come to North Carolina?
Distracted driving existed long before the advent of cellphones; eating, checking maps, or changing radio stations while driving all pose a similar danger. There’s no denying, however, that the rise of cellphones and the temptation of at-your-fingertips news, games, and social interactions have multiplied the opportunities for distraction behind the wheel.
While there’s no Textalyzer bill yet in North Carolina, state legislators have worked with highway safety experts to introduce an initiative called N.C. Vision Zero which aims to create a future that’s free of traffic fatalities. Eliminating distracted driving will play a key role in that goal, so the adoption of N.C. Vision Zero could provide an argument for bringing the Textalyzer to North Carolina roads and highways if the device makes a positive impact in New York.
Myers Law Firm: Compassionate, Aggressive Reputation for Injured Victims
The experienced personal injury legal team at Myers Law Firm supports sensible efforts to reduce distracted driving in North Carolina. Unfortunately, distracted and negligent driving remain serious problems in our state, and innocent people suffer the consequences every day.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, please contact our offices to set up a free, no-risk consultation and learn about your legal options. To get in touch with us right away, complete the contact form on our website, or call 888-376-2889.
Distracted driving research: Learn, share and help this deadly epidemic. (2016). The National Safety Council. Retrieved from http://www.nsc.org/learn/NSC-Initiatives/Pages/distracted-driving-research-studies.aspx
Richtel, M. Texting and driving? Watch out for the Textalyzer. (2016, April 27). The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/28/science/driving-texting-safety-textalyzer.html?_r=0
Williams, C. (2016, April 15). New device could help cops catch people who text and drive. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/textalyzer-stop-texting-and-driving_us_570fcdbae4b08a2d32b94db6