The Textalyzer

With road fatalities up 8% from the previous year, New York is taking a new approach to prevent distracted driving.  A recent article in the New York Times discusses the idea of the Textalyzer and New York’s proposed legislation to increase enforcement of distracted driving.  The Textalyzer is is the “digital equivalent of a Breathalyzer.” After a police officer arrived at the scene of a crash, the Textalyzer could be used to check a phone for recent activity.  Many proponents argue the Textalyzer would provide the perfect stick for a carrot and stick approach to distracted driving.  While there are active and proposed campaigns to discourage distracted driving, the Textalyzer will enhance the police’s ability to enforce legislation.  Opponents, on the other hand, argue it invites unwarranted seizure of phones.  A Supreme Court Decision in 2014 ruled phones cannot be searched even in the event of an arrest.  Those in support of the Bill claim the Textalyzer will not allow access to the content of emails or texts on the phone and relies on the theory of “implied consent” used for Breathalyzers.  Knowing that distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, do you support the Bill?  In your opinion, will this “stick” actually decrease texting and driving?

The Textalyzer is not something we discussed while in Detroit.  However, this topic does concern autonomous vehicles.  A large portion of drivers, according to UMTRI, desire autonomous vehicles for their ability to concentrate on other tasks rather than driving.  If Textalyzers were to become common, people may desire autonomous vehicles more, allowing them to text without the threat of consequences from distracted driving.  Read my comments on autonomous vehicles here.

4 comments to The Textalyzer

  • Barrett Snyder

    One key flaw with this legislation is that the phone is only checked after an accident. Would the proposed bill mean that every time there is an accident in New York, law enforcement is required to check all parties’ phones on scene? I can’t help but think this complicates the process of paperwork and on scene investigation that occurs after a crash. Meanwhile the officers are in harms way on roadways, subject to traffic moving by.

    On a separate note, I’m not sure that checking fault after an accident will incentivize anyone to refrain from phone use while driving. It doesn’t strike me as something that would cross someone’s mind before making that choice.

  • Sam Wilson

    The other aspect that makes this interesting is the question of whether this textalyzer would change the fault in a given accident. For instance, if a person is standstill on their phone and gets rear ended would they still be punished? Or in other situations where we have previously determined right of way and fault. Will these commonplace regulations/standards become obsolete and circumstantial? Or will insurance companies start implementing other penalties to deal with these incidents.

    There have also been different styles of anti-texting advertisements, especially in the past few years. In the US we tend to make it a very serious matter and one that makes the viewer feel bad because they basically witness the accident. Through this we hope to scare them straight. I think that this however is much like the SPCA – “Arms of the Angels” commercials that make everybody cry but do nothing. New Zealand on the other hand has taken to some more comical routes that I think would in fact stay in the consumer’s head ( If people remember this past Super Bowl or ones from years past, they generally remember the funniest commercials unless it was aired over and over again. I think it would be interesting to see how this would work in the US.

  • frankn18

    There’s a pretty black and white scenario when it comes to texting a driving. Either you are or you aren’t at the time, and it’s nearly impossible to tell. One solution to this could simply involve turning your phone off or putting it into air plane mode before the car will even start. Or, when the car is moving somehow disable the phone. This is tricky, however, because passengers and whatnot. I like the idea of a textalyzer as long as it isn’t abused. There needs to be a way to check activity as texting-related accidents would often be avoided if there was no fumbling around on a phone.

  • brewsterw18

    Personally, I think there is a lot of leeway with this legislation on checking phones, private property to see if that was the cause of the wreck. Honestly, I think it’s important that checking into private property shouldn’t be used, as it would be a lot easier if the driver came clean and said if he was texting or not. In essence, as long as the Textalyzer is used for the right reasons, I think it could be productive, but I think if we, as a country were more trustworthy, and that means simply not texting and driving, than it would solve everything. Moreover, I think if people owned up to their mistakes it would make our culture as a whole a lot better instead of using legislation and law enforcement to enforce these matters that could infringe on people’s private property or whatever they deem to be “private”.