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Device takes aim at distracted driving

The use of handheld electronic devices while behind the wheel is prohibited in Illinois, but police rarely cite motorists for this violation unless they catch them in the act. This is because police officers must generally acquire search warrants before examining cellphones, but this rarely happens except in the case of catastrophic accidents. However, a road safety advocacy group and an Israeli technology company have developed a device that they say allows police officers to check cellphones while protecting the privacy of drivers.

The device, which Distracted Operators Risk Casualties and Cellebrite Mobile Synchronization call the textalyzer, plugs into cellphones and reveals recent activity, but it does not download any data. The entire process takes about the same amount of time as a roadside breath test according to supporters of the technology. The textalyzer was demonstrated to legislators in New York in April, and several states are said to be considering issuing the devices to their law enforcement agencies.

Civil rights groups are less impressed by the textalyzer, and a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties Union said that the device would likely lead to police conducting warrantless cellphone searches after even minor car crashes. While lawmakers may weigh these arguments carefully, they may ultimately be more concerned about traffic accident death rates that have soared in recent years despite major advances in automobile safety equipment and systems.

Experienced personal injury attorneys pursuing car accident lawsuits may be aware that police reports rarely include details of cellphone use, and they could make efforts of their own to secure these records when distraction is suspected. Attorneys may also have the vehicles involved inspected to rule out mechanical failure as a cause.

Source: The Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, "Distracted, Drowsy and Aggressive Driving", accessed on May 2, 2017

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