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Police may soon use "textalyzer" on drivers' phones

Georgia residents may have heard of the "textalyzer," a device that connects to a phone to check for any previous activity. In 2017, the New York legislature proposed a measure that would allow police to use these devices on drivers' phones to determine if drivers were distracted prior to a crash. Though the measure fell through, a similar measure has been introduced in the Nevada legislature.

There are concerns that the textalyzer violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. The maker of the device, the Israel-based company Cellebrite, has stated that it does not access or store personal content. The textalyzer will show whether there has been any swiping or typing.

The textalyzer would thus record more comprehensive data than phone records, which do not tell if drivers surfed the internet, played games or used social media. Concerns remain, though, regarding how the device works. A policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union says the device should be open sourced so that the public can see for itself how it does not store personal content.

The Nevada proposal would have police obtain a warrant if drivers refuse to have their phones checked. However, distracted driving is a relatively new issue, so state laws on obtaining warrants under such circumstances are not uniform.

Distracted driving is considered an underreported phenomenon since drivers can lie to the police about what they were doing before a car crash. However, if phone records or something else points to distracted driving, those who are injured and who are less to blame than the other may be able to seek damages. If successful, their claim might cover losses like medical bills, vehicle damage and income lost during the physical recovery. It may be wise to hire a lawyer, especially for the negotiation stage.

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