Imagine a Breathalyzer, but instead of measuring your blood-alcohol level, it measures your cellphone activity while behind the wheel.
Enter the "textalyzer," a device that could be in the hands of police officers in New York state in the near future so they can determine whether a motorist involved in a serious accident was using a cellphone.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that his Governor's Traffic Safety Committee will study the new technology as well as its legality in terms of personal privacy laws.
New York banned the use of hand-held devices for all drivers in 2009. It's one of 14 states plus Washington, D.C., to have such a ban. Forty-seven states and Washington, D.C., have texting-while-driving bans for all drivers.
"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," Cuomo said in a statement to the Associated Press. "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."
Cellebrite, a technology company in Israel, is developing the "textalyzer" device and says it's still months away from being ready, according to the AP report.
Cuomo's committee will hear from those for and against the technology, law enforcement officials and legal experts before making a report. The focus of that report will be the effectiveness of the technology, constitutional and legal issues and how the device would be used in real situations, the governor's office told the AP.
The Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research conducted a study of crashes involving cellphone use and distracted driving in New York state from 2011 to 2015. It found that 12 people were killed and 2,784 were injured in accidents caused by cellphones. Furthermore, 1.2 million tickets were issued for cellphone violations during that period. The study found that 48 to 52 percent of the drivers it surveyed from 2013 to 2016 send or receive text messages while driving.
"We were the first state to adopt a motorcycle helmet law, a seat-belt law for front-seat passengers and a cellphone law," Terri Egan, executive deputy commissioner of the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, told the AP. Egan is also the acting leader of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee. "We want to make sure we consider all the impacts of the technology carefully to best ensure public safety and effective enforcement of the law."