After years of decline in road fatalities, numbers were up 8 percent in 2015. Many believe the rise is due at least in part to distracted driving and advocates are looking to programs that have successfully curtailed drunk driving for potential solutions.
The New York Times reports that one idea from New York lawmakers, would give police officers a new digital device that is the equivalent of the Breathalyzer — a roadside test called the Textalyzer.
An officer arriving at the scene of a crash could ask for the phones of any drivers involved and use the Textalyzer to tap into the operating system to check for recent activity, according to the New York Times article.
“The technology could determine whether a driver had used the phone to text, email or do anything else that is forbidden under New York’s hands-free driving laws, which prohibit drivers from holding phones to their ears. Failure to hand over a phone could lead to the suspension of a driver’s license, similar to the consequences for refusing a Breathalyser.”
However, the proposed legislation faces hurdles to becoming law, including privacy concerns, even though the Textalyzer bill would not give the police access to contents of any emails or texts.
If the law were to pass in New York, some believe it could spread across other states in the same way that the hands-free rules did after New York adopted them.
This is an interesting idea. The insurance industry has long been a major supporter of anti-drunk driving and seatbelt usage campaigns.
Distraction was a factor in 10 percent of fatal crashes reported in 2013, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. Some 14 percent of distraction-affected crashes occurred while a cell phone was in use, the NHTSA notes.
A Highway Loss Data Institute study of collision claims patterns in four states (California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington) also found that texting bans may not reduce crash rates. Collisions went up slightly in all the states, except Washington, where the change was statistically insignificant.
The use of technology to better assess risk is something that insurers embrace in many different lines of business, including auto and health. Clearly, privacy concerns will need to be weighed, but this is a novel approach to tackling the distracted driving problem.
Check out Insurance Information Institute statistics on distracted driving here.