New proposal in Albany could start ‘textalyzer’ era

Car accidents have been on the decline for 16 years, but now trends are beginning to reverse. Legislators and advocates blame distracted driving, which often goes uninvestigated without driver admission or a witness. The Legislative Gazette’s Katie Carroll reports on a proposed bill in New York that could change that.

“Evan’s law,” named after 19-year-old Evan Lieberman, who died in a distracted driving accident, would allow law enforcement to utilize the “textalyzer” technology to determine whether a driver was distracted by a phone or another device at the time of an accident.

We got that call that every parent dreads. There’s been a car collision, and your son’s in the hospital… The driver told police that he fell asleep at the wheel. My gut was telling me, you don’t fall asleep on that crazy windy road at rush hour. I subpoenaed the phone records for our own civil suit. It was six agonizing months before I got the phone records. And the phone records revealed an entirely different story to me. He was texting throughout the drive.”

Ben Lieberman, Evan’s father, has become an advocate against distracted driving and is helping to develop the textalyzer with mobile data company Cellebrite.

“The goal was to create something that can be administered like a portable sobriety test,” he said.

The device would detect swiping and typing, but doesn’t have the capabilities to access personal content, and that’s important. The phone would never leave a driver’s hand, and it can differentiate between legal Bluetooth voice activation versus illegal touching and swiping.”

Independent Democratic Senator Diane Savino of New York City says the textalyzer is a necessary tool for law enforcement to make driving safer for all.

“We need to elevate the penalty and provide more tools for law enforcement so that they can get to this. We need to change the behavior of people so that they finally realize that this is more dangerous than drunk driving.”