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HOT TOPIC Breathalyzer meets 'Textalyzer' in NY state proposal

ALBANY, NY — Ben Lieberman says he’s often heard there is no such thing as a breathalyzer for distracted driving. “So we created one,” he says.

Known as a “textalyzer”, the tech device would allow police involved in crash investigations to access a driver’s call and text logs — but not personal information — to determine if texting occurred at the suspected time of the crash.

The technology is now part of a Bill introduced to the New York State Senate. It’s called “Evan’s Bill” after Lieberman’s son, who died in a 2011 car crash at 19. Through a family investigation and lawsuit, Lieberman says he obtained evidence that the other teen in the incident had been using his phone while driving.

Lieberman was surprised to learn that the local police force was not to blame for avoiding the driver's device, but rather that this was typical because there is no official, consistent police protocol.

The discovery him inspired to take action.

"The general public knows distracted driving is a problem, but if people knew the extent of the damage caused by this behavior, they would be amazed,” Lieberman announced in a statement following the Bill’s introduction. "With our current laws, we're not getting accurate information because the issue is not being addressed at the heart of the problem — with the people causing the collisions," he added.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. Despite this fact, and despite knowledge of the risk to themselves and others, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that 67% of drivers still use their mobile phones while behind the wheel.

Evan’s Bill launched with the support of New York State Senator Terrence Murphy (R-Westchester) and Assembly Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz (D-Kings), together with awareness organization Distracted Operators Risk Casualties (DORCs), which was co-founded by Lieberman.

If the Bill sees the light of day, drivers who refuse to comply with the textalyzer could face similar consequences to drivers who refuse a roadside breathalyzer.

Forensic tech solutions firm Cellebrite is developing textalyzer prototypes that officers may eventually use in the field. 

"We look forward to supporting DORCs and law enforcement — both in New York and nationally — to curb distracted driving,” said Jim Grady, CEO of Cellebrite.

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distracted driving texting enforcement