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Some states consider Textalyzer test to combat distracted driving

It is fairly easy for law enforcement to determine whether or not a driver is drunk driving. But there is no objective test in place to prove whether a driver was distracted driving.

In 2016, 834 people died in car accidents in Kentucky. Nearly a quarter of those incidents resulted from cell phone use and distracted driving. Kentucky has laws in place making it illegal to text and drive – but it is fairly hard to prove whether someone was using their cell phone. One bill proposed in New York, and being considered in other states and cities across the country, is looking to change that.

What is a textalyzer?

At the center of the bill is a device named the ‘textalyzer.’ Much like how a breathalyzer determines whether you are intoxicated, the textalyzer tells law enforcement officers whether you typed or swiped on your phone’s screen during the scene of your crime or accident.

46 states have laws against texting and driving, but police have little means to enforce these laws. Those accused of texting and driving are often thrown into a battle of ‘he said, she said’ over the course of their case, with little objective proof to back up either side. The textalyzer aims to provide that objective proof.

The pros and cons of a textalyzer test

Proponents of the bill assert that it is simply common sense. We have a breathalyzer test to enforce drunk driving laws, we should also have a test to enforce distracted driving laws. And as cell phone use grows every year, the need for such a test is becoming more prominent.

However, opponents of the bill cite privacy concerns. Most of our lives revolve around our phones, and giving law enforcement the ability to tap into our phones during any traffic violation could infringe upon our digital privacy.

While the bill’s supporters claim that police will gain no access to the content within the phone, simply whether or not the phone was used. That alone would give them enough information to prosecute distracted drivers.

However, this raises further questions about criminal defense. What, if anything, constitutes fair cell phone use? In Kentucky, drivers are allowed to use their phones for other functions beyond texting. Should a version of this bill be introduced in Kentucky, the law would need to be further refined to protect the rights of those accused of criminal charges throughout the state.

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