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Textalyzer device reveals recent cellphone use to police

Accidents caused by drivers distracted by their cellphones are far too prevalent in Pennsylvania and across the country, and an Israeli technology company has teamed up with a road safety advocacy group to develop a device that police can use to combat the problem. The device plugs into cellphones and reveals how drivers have been using them.

The advocates demonstrated their new device to lawmakers in New York in April, and police departments across the country are said to have shown an interest in acquiring the technology. Cellphones contain private and often highly personal information, and civil rights groups have been quick to criticize the so-called "textalyzer" for violating the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

The advocates counter these arguments by pointing out that the device only reveals the applications that have been recently used on a cellphone along with text and calling information, and they say that constitutional arguments are invalid because their device does not download any personal data. However, a senior attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union was unimpressed by these arguments. She said the textalyzer would give police the right to conduct warrantless and possibly illegal searches after even minor car accidents.

While experienced personal injury attorneys may take constitutional arguments seriously, they could support noninvasive methods that are designed to help police to officers identify reckless and dangerous drivers. Police must currently obtain search warrants before they are able to look at cellphone data, and this is rarely done unless injuries are serious or lives have been lost. Attorneys representing car accident victims may be more persistent, and they could request those records in cases where distraction is suspected and police reports are inconclusive.

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