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Device could help police to identify distracted drivers

The number of road users killed in distracted driving accidents in Maryland and around the country has increased sharply in recent years, and most experts say that this alarming trend is largely the result of motorists using cellphones to access the internet or send text messages. Police often find it difficult to prove that this contributed to accidents because they must obtain search warrants before examining cellphones, and this is not generally done unless serious injuries or fatalities have occurred.

However, an Israeli technology firm and a road safety advocacy group have teamed up to create a new tool for law enforcement to use in the battle against distracted driving. The textalyzer is a device that plugs into cellphones and allows police officers to see what the device has recently been used for. It was given its name because Cellebrite Mobile Synchronization and Distracted Operators Risk Casualties say that it is as easy for law enforcement to use as the portable breath testing equipment already at their disposal.

The textalizer was demonstrated to lawmakers in New York in April, and media reports suggest that several police departments have expressed interest in acquiring the devices. However, civil rights groups say that the use of the device violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. An attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union says that warrantless cellphone searches are particularly problematic because of the large amounts of highly personal data they contain.

Experienced personal injury attorneys will likely be aware that police officers rarely obtain search warrants to examine cellphones after a crash, and they may make their own efforts to secure these records when distraction is suspected in motor vehicle accident cases. Attorneys could also seek to gather the information stored on automobile data recorders to rule out mechanical failure and provide a more complete picture of what transpired in the moments before a crash.

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