A new form of technology known as the “textalyzer” has been developed to help law enforcement officials catch individuals who are illegally texting while driving. This is particularly significant news for residents of DuPage County who regularly commute into Chicago.
According to a recent report from ABC News 7, “Chicago may become the first city in the U.S. to arm its police officers with devices that will tell them immediately if motorists were texting when they got into a traffic accident.” Indeed, members of the Chicago Police Department may soon begin using textalyzers to determine whether a driver violated Illinois’s texting-while-driving law, which prohibits the use of electronic devices for texting if you are behind the wheel.
What is the textalyzer and how does it work? Can such a device actually deter drivers from texting in order to prevent motor vehicle accidents? And is such a device lawful?
What is the Textalyzer?
Last year, a report from NPR described the textalyzer technology as similar to the Breathalyzer technology that law enforcement officials use to determine if a motorist has been drinking and driving. However, the textalyzer does not require the driver to blow into a device. The device was developed through a company known as Cellebrite and, in effect, it gives police officers the ability to “search” a phone’s texting records without obtaining a search warrant in order to “determine whether a driver illegally was using a phone in the moments before a crash.”
How does it work? A police officer brings the device over to a driver’s smart phone and uses a cord to connect the device to the driver’s phone. Then, according to one of the engineers behind the device, the police officer “can simply just tap one button . . . and it will process, about 90 seconds or so, and it will show what the last activities were—again that could be a text message and so on—with a time stamp.”
The device has the ability to give police information about the apps that were open and in use in the moments before a collision, along with a timestamp. The textalyzer is designed to “only capture taps and swipes,” meaning that DuPage County drivers who are legally using their phones hands-free would not be cited.
Proposed Measure by City Aldermen
After news of the textalyzer began to make its way across the country, two Chicago city aldermen, Alderman Edward Burke and Alderman Anthony Beale, proposed a measure to allow Chicago police to use the device when responding to traffic collisions. The public safety committee within the City Council voted earlier this month to have a study of the device, and the issue will now go to the full City Council for a vote.
However, it is not yet clear if the measure will move forward, putting textalyzers into use. While individuals like Burke emphasize that the textalyzer could hold distracted drivers accountable while also deterring others from texting, others suggest that the device could infringe upon individual liberties. According to a spokesperson for the ACLU of Illinois, “one thing that is troubling is that it’s not clear what limitations there are on the information gathered.” Cellebrite insists that no personal information can be obtained by the device, yet the spokesperson for the ACLU highlights that, if the device “can tell you who [was involved in the texting], it can probably tell you the content.”
Contact a DuPage County Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer
If the measure passes, we could see a reduction in the rates of distracted driving accidents, and car crash victims may be able to obtain more evidence to prove distracted driving in a serious crash. In the meantime, if you or someone you love was injured in a collision, you should speak with a passionate DuPage County car accident lawyer about your case. Contact Mevorah Law Offices LLC for more information.
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