clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Roadside 'textalyzer' could help stop distracted driving in New York

New, 12 comments

Devices in works from company that helped FBI crack San Bernardino iPhone

Kena Betancur/Getty Images

New legislation proposed in New York could compel drivers of vehicles involved in accidents to submit their phone for testing with a "textalyzer" — technology that can tell whether the phone was in use prior to or during the crash. If approved, the test could be administered on the side of the road like to the breathalyzers currently used to check a driver's blood-alcohol level, ostensibly indicating whether someone could have been driving distracted.

'Textalyzers' won't be able to check phone records

Israeli firm Cellebrite, recently linked with the FBI's successful attempt to unlock the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone, is one company currently working on devices that would make such testing possible. The firm already has technology that can check a phone's recent activity, but Cellebrite would need to remove some features so potential devices used by law enforcement didn't break constitutional law, simply indicating whether a phone had been used while driving without logging more detailed records like the contents of texts or numbers called.

The legislation — currently before the New York Senate Transportation Committee — makes specific note of this provision for privacy, stating that "no such electronic scan shall include the content or origin of any communication, game conducted, image or electronic data viewed on a mobile telephone or a portable electronic device." If the legislation passes, however, it will change the law so that drivers give implied consent for police to determine whether they were using "a mobile telephone or portable electronic device at or near the time of the accident or collision."