Chicago Officials Seek ‘Textalyzers’ to Reduce Accidents

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Because one-fourth of U.S. traffic accidents are is caused by texting while driving, two Chicago aldermen say it’s time for police to use new technology to stop it, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke and Transportation Committee Chairman Anthony Beale are asking the police department to look into using a so-called “textalyzer” to detect whether motorists involved in injury-related accidents had been distracted by their cellphones before the crash occurred. It’s the brainchild of a New York father who turned his grief to action, leading to a push to fight distracted driving with tools similar to those used to combat drunken driving. The embryonic technology is raising red flags with some civil libertarians.

Nearly 3,500 people were killed and 391,000 injured in crashes involving distracted drivers across the nation in 2015. The “textalyzer” being developed by the Israeli mobile forensics company Cellebrite is still in the prototype stage and has yet to be implemented anywhere, but legislators are mulling the idea in several states. A bill under consideration in New York would let officers use the company’s tablet, which connects to a driver’s phone to determine if the person had been typing or swiping on their phone within minutes of a crash without giving police access to the contents of the phone. Ed Yohnka of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said he is “leery” of the technology.


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