texting while driving texting while driving Some experts are calling the high occurrence of people texting while driving an "epidemic" that's more dangerous than drunk driving. (Photo: JRP Studio / Shutterstock)

This new device is like a breathalyzer, only it's for distracted driving

Device can quickly detect whether a driver was texting before a crash. And a U.S. governor has just signed on.

Is distracted driving the new drunk driving? Perhaps it is, and perhaps it should be treated as such.

An Israel-based mobile technology company is developing what it calls the "Textalyzer." It's a device that police can use to quickly and accurately detect whether a driver involved in a crash had been texting, checking e-mail, Snapchatting, Instagramming, Tweeting or engaging in other distracting activities.

Cellebrite, which is headquartered just outside the Mediterranean metropolis of Tel Aviv, says it's able to allow police to use the technology without compromising people's privacy. While the Textalyzer does scan phone activity, "we know how to decode and parse it while preserving personal privacy,” Jeremy Nazarian, chief marketing officer at Cellebrite, told The Huffington Post. The device looks at metadata, which indicates whether a text message was sent, but it can't read the contents of messages or phone calls.

An engineer explains the Textalyzer technology developed by the Israeli firm Cellebrite in Petah Tikva, Israel. An engineer explains the Textalyzer technology developed by the Israeli firm Cellebrite in Petah Tikva, Israel. (Photo: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

It's getting the attention of several states, including New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo has just announced that he's asked a committee to study the technology to possibly alllow police departments across the state to use it.

"Despite laws to ban cellphone use while driving, some motorists still continue to insist on texting behind the wheel – placing themselves and others at substantial risk," Cuomo told The Associated Press. "This review will examine the effectiveness of using this new emerging technology to crack down on this reckless behavior and thoroughly evaluate its implications to ensure we protect the safety and privacy of New Yorkers."

It could be a key step in ending what experts are calling an epidemic: in 2015 alone, more than 3,100 fatal crashes in the U.S. were caused by distracted driving.

The next step, officials say, is waiting for the technology to fully develop and continuing to study its effectiveness on curbing distracted driving. Though it's met with a mix of skepticism and optimism, many people believe technology like this is the only way to curb the problem and save lives.

"If you're texting and driving, you're breaking the law and you're risking people's lives," Emily Boedigheimer, an Albany, N.Y., resident, told ABC News. "Why can't you wait, or pull over, to make that one call or read your texts?"


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