Articles Tagged with Texting while driving

Texting is arguably more dangerous than drunk driving. According to a study conducted by Car And Driver, a driver’s reaction time is worse while texting than while intoxicated. With nearly all drivers in possession of a cell phone, it seems likely many more people are driving while texting than driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For decades, law enforcement has developed methods to detect drunk driving. Officers now need a way to detect texting while driving without violating individuals’ right to privacy. Is the new “Textalyzer” the answer?

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Texting Laws And The Textalyzer
Nearly all states, including Ohio, now have laws prohibiting texting while driving. The state-wide ban in Ohio Revised Code section 4511.204 prohibits operating a motor vehicle ‘while using a handheld electronic communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication’. Another Ohio law, Revised Code section 4511.991, enhances the sentence of a traffic violation if distracted driving is a contributing factor to the commission of the offense. The problem is not prohibiting the conduct with a law: the problem is enforcing the law which prohibits the conduct. To address the difficulty of enforcing these laws, several states are considering laws which permit the use of a device like the Textalyzer.

The manufacturer of the Textalyzer, Cellebrite, says the device will help law enforcement officers prove whether a driver was using a mobile phone while driving. Officers would plug the device into the driver’s cell phone and scan the phone for recent activity. The device would tell officers when the phone was used for activities such as texting, Facebook messaging, and web browsing. Because the device can reportedly time-stamp the cell phone activity, officers would be able to determine whether the cell phone use was a factor in an accident or traffic violation.

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The last entry in this blog discussed the movement to decrease distracted driving in the United States.  Using cell phones while driving appears to be increasingly problematic.  In response, states are criminalizing the behavior, and groups like the Partnership For Distraction-Free Driving and the Distracted Driving Project are mounting campaigns which encourage drivers to not multi-task while driving.  Another idea to combat distracted driving is use of the ‘Textalyzer’.

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What Is A Textalyzer?
The Textalyzer is computer program developed by Cellebrite.  Cellebrite sells software which enables investigators to unlock digital evidence from cell phones and other devices.  The Textalyzer is a relatively lean application which analyzes cells phone and provides reports regarding how and when the phones were used.

The Textalyzer could be used in various traffic law enforcement scenarios.  For example, it may be used if an officer is dispatched to an accident scene, makes a traffic stop, or responds to a report of a reckless driver.  In any of those situations, the officer could obtain the cell phone(s) of the driver(s) involved.  The officer would then run a cable from the driver’s phone to the officer’s laptop.  The Textalyzer program on the officer’s laptop would then examine the cell phone on-the-spot and report the findings to the officer.

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How many times have you seen someone obviously texting while driving?  I recently drove by a guy who was operating his phone with both hands while he steered his car with his knees.  I’m sensitive to the danger posed by distracted driving, both as a lawyer who represents clients charged with traffic offenses and as a father of a child approaching driving age.  The more we learn about the danger of distracted driving, the more we understand it may be as hazardous as drunk driving.  Consequently, driving while texting may someday carry penalties like those for DUI (known as OVI in Ohio).

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Matt Richtel‘s recent article in the New York Times presents a good discussion of this issue.  According to the article, the problem of driving while distracted by a cell phone is getting worse.  Surveys show Americans not only continue to text but also take selfies, use Snapchat and post on Facebook while driving.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), 3,477 people in the United States were killed by distracted driving in 2015, and another 391,000 were injured.  NHSTA chief Mark Rosekind says it’s increasing, and “radical change requires radical ideas”.

The Movement To Decrease Distracted Driving
One idea for change comes from Candace Lightner, founder of Mother’s Against Drunk Driving.  Lightner has formed a new group:  Partnership For Distraction-Free Driving.  That group is gathering signatures on a petition for social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to discourage drivers from multi-tasking.

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