In a fender-bender? The police may want to analyze your phone

A 'Textalyzer' can tell whether you were on a phone while driving

A new device is in the works that informs police whether a driver was using his or her phone prior to a car collision. Legislators in New York are also aiming to implement this device in an effort to better enforce laws against using a phone while driving.

The nicknamed "Textalyzer" – a play off of breathalyzers used to confirm drunk driving – scans a driver's smartphone to tell when it was used last.

The device is currently being developed by Cellebrite, the same Israeli forensics tech firm that reportedly assisted the FBI with the San Bernandino iPhone cracking case recently.

A New York bill currently in committee would give the green light for the Textalyzer's use, but also has a few provisions as to what the device can – and can't – grab from a scanned phone.

According to the bill, the device "is able to immediately determine cell phone usage without an inquiry into the content, [and] will allow enforcement of these laws after an accident while still protecting essential privacy rights."

A press release clarifies those aforementioned "essential privacy rights," iterating that, while the Textalyzer would be able to scan your phone to see when it last texted, it wouldn't be able to pick up who that text was for, what its contents were or any other sensitive information.

The recent crackdown on distracted driving in New York is the result of intense lobbying by Distracted Operators Risk Casualties – a group rallied against the dangers of distracted driving co-founded by Ben Lieberman, whose son was killed in a distracted driving collision.

With the advent of Apple CarPlay and other phone-integrated dashboards, it is still uncertain whether the Textalyzer will penalize a user for using hands-free components on a phone, or if the firm expects to see use outside of New York, as laws against using a mobile device while driving vary based on location.

Regardless, just stop using your phone behind the wheel already? Whatever it is, it can wait.

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