April 30th, and we have come to the end of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, 2017 – how did we do as a nation? CNN began the month by posting a story about David Teater, who travels the country to educate children about the dangers of using a phone — even a hands-free device. He is on a mission, raising awareness about the deadly problem of distracted driving, in tribute to his 12-year-old son who died because of a distracted driver.
NPR ended the month with a story about textalyzers aiming to curb distracted drivers under their All Tech Considered section. Modeled after the Breathalyzer that determines blood alcohol concentration or levels, a textalyzer would determine if you had been using your phone illegally on the road. As in the case of David Teater, the tragedy of losing a son served as the impetus to do something about the problem. Ben Lieberman’s 19-year-old son was killed in a car crash caused by a driver who was texting, drifted over the center line and hit the other vehicle head-on. Lieberman — along with the advocacy group he co-founded — has been working with a company called Cellebrite to develop a “textalyzer.” It would be able to determine whether a driver illegally was using a phone in the moments before a crash. While the technology still isn’t fully developed, Cellebrite engineers report it would be tailored to what is legal in each jurisdiction that approves its use.
Lawmakers are interested in the device in several cities as they consider ways to get drivers to focus on the road instead of their phones. According to the National Safety Council, sponsors of the April Distracted Driving Awareness campaign #JustDrive, a significant number of the close to 40,000 fatalities are attributed in part to distractions from phones. The textalyzer is going to be a game-changer when it comes to handheld devices and potentially even in-vehicle systems. “It will be the Breathalyzer of our electronics.”