New York eyes ‘textalyzer’ to combat distracted driving

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New York State is expected to study “textalyzer” technology that would allow police to determine if a motorist had been texting, emailing or otherwise using a cellphone moments before a serious crash.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that he would direct the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to examine the technology, as well as the privacy and constitutional questions it could raise.

“Despite laws to ban cellphone use while driving, some motorists still continue to insist on texting behind the wheel — placing themselves and others at substantial risk,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This review will examine the effectiveness of using this new emerging technology to crack down on this reckless behavior and thoroughly evaluate its implications to ensure we protect the safety and privacy of New Yorkers.”

The device is called the “textalyzer” because of its similarity to the Breathalyzer, which is used to identify drunk drivers.

The governor’s office says the committee will hear from supporters and opponents of the technology, law enforcement officials and legal experts before issuing a report. The effectiveness of the technology, constitutional and legal issues as well as how the device would be used in practice will be studied.

Twelve people were killed and 2,784 were injured in cellphone-related crashes in New York state from 2011-2015, according to a report from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research. During that time, 1.2 million tickets for cellphone violations.

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