Texting while driving may be more of a big deal than we think.
US police may soon rely on a “Textalyzer”, a device that detects when a driver is texting while driving. This is the latest in efforts to address distracted driving and the dangers it may cause.
It's like the breathalyzer for the present times. While the breathalyzer rats out drunk drivers, the Textalyzer rats out drivers whose attentions are split between actually driving and firing off a message or two, which can actually become quite a problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), drivers that use mobile devices while driving are four times more likely to be involved in a crash. Reaction times are important when driving, and mobile devices can slow our reaction time down. Even hands-free devices, apparently, aren't much safer.
The Textalyzer is a device that can connect to your phone and can let the police know if you sent a message while driving. The device collects info on call logs and messaging apps and stores them in one place.
Death and injury can occur due to texting behind the wheel.
Spending a few seconds looking at your phone to read a text message may not seem like much. After all, what can happen in just four to five seconds? A lot, apparently. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that if you're driving at 55mph, spending five seconds to read or send a text is like closing your eyes then driving down the length of a football field. Distracted driving is deadlier than it seems, with 3,477 deaths just in 2015.
However, some people still don't see the harm in firing off a seemingly harmless text or two while driving, in the same way that some people still get behind the wheel after a couple of drinks. There are already laws in place prohibiting people from texting while driving, but of course, not all citizens abide by these laws.
Enter the Textalyzer, which will tell officers whether someone had been texting while driving. It's a tablet-like device that can be plugged into a mobile phone and will then reveal the phone's activity. The device doesn't just reveal if drivers have been texting, it can also reveal if they've been accessing their email or the Internet while driving.
A demonstration of the Textalyzer
[Photo by NBC News]
Of course, the main concern here is privacy. It's also not clear yet whether or not the use of the Textalyzer is even legal. For one thing, police officers can legally access the contents of a mobile device only with a warrant. In spite of these considerations, testing of the device is set to go underway. Cellebrite, the Israeli tech company developing the device, says that it may take a few more months for the Textalyzer to be ready.
Proponents of the device say that it won't actually be as invasive of people's privacy as it sounds. A police officer won't be able to see a phone's actual messages, photos, emails, and browsing history by using the device. All the device would be able to show is whether or not the driver of a vehicle had broken a law.
Whether the use of the device is legal and ethical or not, there are definitely advantages and drawbacks to using it. It still remains to be seen, however, if it can curb distracted driving.
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