14 metres. That’s how far a driver travels blind if they glance at their smartphone for just one second while travelling at 50 km/h. 3,500 people were killed on Germany’s roads in 2015. According to estimates made in a study by Allianz-Versicherung, one tenth of them died because they were distracted, and it is likely that in many cases this was due to their smartphone.
Many attempts have already been made to dissuade drivers from using their mobile phone at the wheel. The legendary film director, Werner Herzog, made the documentary “From one Second to the next” on behalf of US telephone company AT&T which describes mobile-related accidents in graphic detail. The radio station NJOY launched the campaign “Head up — your mobile can wait” which won the German Radio Prize. In September 2017, German lawmakers finally raised the fine for using your mobile phone at the wheel from 60 to 100 euros with one point also added to your record in Flensburg.
Device knows who is writing the SMS
The Governor of the US State of New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, is taking even more drastic action. Twelve people were killed there between 2011 and 2015 in mobile-related accidents, and there were 2,784 injuries. And no fewer than 1.2 million fines were issued due to use of a smartphone in the same period. Cuomo has now also had his police equipped with the tool Textalyzer.
The software from the Israeli supplier, Cellebrite Mobile Synchronisation, can establish whether a text message was written on a mobile phone at a certain time. To do so, the policeman connects the Textalyzer to the mobile phone of a driver who has had an accident. The device then displays whether and when the phone has been used and for what purpose. Drivers who were writing messages at the wheel could be unmasked by the device. Data protection experts, however, are fearful that Textalyzer may be able to read more than just the relevant data. The Governor has therefore tasked the State Traffic Safety Committee with reviewing the Textalyzer with respect to data protection issues.