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The Texting Dilemma

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For the past seven years, many states have initiated an array of tactics to persuade drivers to not text behind the wheel. However, with apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, distractions are becoming more prevalent, which has increased road fatalities to roughly 8 percent in 2015. The fatalities are partly due to the fact that more drivers are on the road, but often, it is because phones’ technological growth is only increasing over time. With such a dilemma at hand, Mark Rosekind, the chief of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, stated, “radical change (in phones) requires radical ideas”, which has led legislators to revert back to a former strategy of treating texting and driving like drunk driving. To elaborate, instead of using a Breathalyzer, state lawmakers of New York have pushed to equip police officers with an equivalent- the Textalyzer, which would tap into phone’s operating systems post-accidents to discover the device’s recent activity. However, although the legislation does not give officers the right to access text and email content, there are still a plethora of privacy concerns. Whatever the concerns are among constituents, lawmakers understand that the problem must be dealt with, as distracted driving is not being treated as seriously as drunk driving. Similar to how the 1980s dealt with drunk driving, its imperative that political pressure leads to tougher laws and campaigns focused on corporate responsibility. Hopefully, the Textalyzer can overcome its privacy hurdles in New York to become the first step in this process.




  1. manleya18

    This article raises an interesting point- I wonder how they will get around privacy concerns considering the recent lawsuit about Apple’s privacy policies and breaking into the San Bernadino killer’s phone to get information about the crime. The Textalyzer, like breaking the privacy policy, could potentially be met with so much controversy that it could seriously hurt PR for the law enforcement officers and the US government. What do you think about this? Are there other ways to stymy texting and driving?

    May 5, 2016
  2. adamsm19

    This is very interesting given privacy concerns addressed. In my home state, Massachusetts, so-called “implied consent” laws that compel drivers to submit to breathalyzer tests have come under criticism. It will be interesting to see if states are able to enforce stronger laws against texting and driving.

    May 5, 2016
    • Yes, this should be a similar “implied consent” issue. If you weren’t texting, then letting a police or court official look at time stamps shouldn’t be too big an intrusion – they don’t need to know anything about who or content, only that there were none sent in the relevant time interval.

      May 7, 2016
  3. frankn18

    I recently read an article highlighting a study on multi-tasking while driving. I’m unable to locate the exact article, but it summed up that less than 2% of the population is able to even talk on the phone and drive with no impairment. Further, the study highlighted that fighter-pilots are the only profession, across the board, that is proven to be able to talk and drive effectively. Considering this notion, and then thinking about texting, is incredibly eye opening to the dangers. While laws do exist, it’s so hard for law enforcement to crack down and spot someone texting a driving compared to speeding. There is no tool comparable to the radar gun, that I know of, to find those who are texting a driving. It seems like the only way to counter it is through education, but it’s a daunting task that has been going on for years.

    May 5, 2016
  4. barnettt18

    I think the advent of texting and other cellular-device-based technologies that require full attention highlight the need for autonomous vehicles in the auto market. If cars are able to drive themselves, the United States will see a dramatic reduction in injuries and errors made by the consumption of on-device content. As states across the nation regulate cell phone use, I hope that they legislators open their hearts and minds to the prospect of autonomous cars in order to combat this consumer-based roadway epidemic.

    Thomas Barnett

    May 6, 2016
  5. siegels18

    Although I completely agree with Thomas that autonomous cars would go a long way to solve this massive problem, I feel as though their must be at least a partial solution that we can employ now with our current technology. The first thing that comes to mind for me is the waze app. This is a mapping app that does not let you access the keyboard in the app while it is in use because it knows that you’re driving. I think that this idea could be adapted to all phones in general by not allowing you to text in you’re driving unless you verify that you’re a passenger. I know that consumers would be against this but I think it could save lives.

    May 6, 2016
  6. Barrett Snyder
    Barrett Snyder

    I don’t think that accessing someone’s phone is the correct way to combat the issue. The easiest solution that I see is to simply lock phones when they are connected to a car’s bluetooth. Very few youth that I know listen to the radio anymore, they will almost always elect to play music off of their phone via bluetooth, an almost standard option on today’s new cars. It would be very simple to program phones to essentially lock themselves when connected to any car’s bluetooth signal.

    May 6, 2016
    • Why not all approaches? You can certainly punish those who caused an accident through negligence – texting – but the evidence is that the threat of punishment has almost no impact on behavior, except around the initial period that is accompanied by copious publicity.

      So mandating waze, working with cell phone companies on blocking texting from their end when vehicles are moving, and Barrett’s bluetooth idea – do all!

      May 7, 2016

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