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"Textalyzer" may let police determine distracted driving

New York residents may remember that the state proposed a measure back in 2017 that would allow police to use "textalyzers" to determine distracted driving. That measure failed, but Nevada has introduced a similar proposal. The textalyzer was developed by the Israel-based company Cellebrite to check for any user activity, such as opening a Facebook messenger call screen. It does not access or store personal content.

However, various groups have brought up privacy concerns, saying that the technology may violate the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. Other groups have a different concern: The legislation may be unnecessary since police already have the ability to obtain search warrants if they wish to check a driver's phone. The bill originally called for a 90-day license suspension for drivers who refused the phone check.

No law enforcement agencies currently use the textalyzer, and it has not been tested in the field. Such testing may begin if the legislation passes. A policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union says that the public may become more comfortable with it if the technology is open sourced and they see for themselves that it does not access personal content.

Distracted driving is a recent and growing phenomenon. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,450 people died in distraction-related car crashes in 2016.

It is also an underreported phenomenon since drivers may not want to admit they were distracted prior to a crash. Victims of distracted drivers may be entitled to compensation for their medical bills, pain and suffering, vehicle damage and other losses under personal injury law. Filing a claim, though, may require legal assistance. Auto insurance companies might be aggressive in denying claims, but a lawyer may be able to negotiate for a reasonable settlement. As a last resort, victims may choose to litigate.

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