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Is the ‘Textalyzer’ the New Device That Will Bust Distracted Drivers in Canada?

Posted in: Blog, Motor Vehicle Accidents // Written on behalf of Cuming & Gillespie
November 7, 2019

Millions of collisions throughout North America are caused by distracted driving.  According to Transport Canada’s National Collision Database, distracted driving contributed to an estimated 21% of all fatal collisions and 27% of all serious injury collisions across Canada.

Data released from the government of Alberta has shown that the number of distracted driving convictions in Calgary in the past five years has decreased by nearly half.  The majority of those who were convicted of distracted driving were those using hand-held devices, such as cellphones.

Despite these encouraging numbers, the government is considering introducing new technology for Canadian police to use to catch distracted drivers on our roadways.  The technology, known as a textalyzer, is also being considered to help prove that a driver was using their phone while driving by various states in the U.S.A., including New York and Nevada.

WHAT IS A TEXTALYZER?

A textalyzer is a device developed by an Israeli digital forensics company, Cellebrite, that would allow police to plug a suspected distracter driver’s cellphone into the device to determine if the driver was on the phone while driving.

According to Cellebrite’s website:

If a driver was using the hands-free option to talk via their mobile-phone, the Textalyzer would also be able to determine that.  Much like the breathalyzer, from which the device received its name, its two prime-use cases are for situations where either there is a suspicion of distracted driving or at the scene of an accident.

Critics of the textalyzer are concerned about privacy rights and that police would have access to private data that they should not have access to without a court order.

Former Privacy Commissioner for Ontario, Ann Cavoukian, stated:

My concern is this: if the police are accessing your cellphone, could they get access to any other information … all of the sensitive data? … I want some assurance that the police will not be able to gain access to all this other wealth of information which they are not authorized to access.

Cavoukian explained that a cellphone is more than just a device to make phone calls, it also keeps track of a lot of information, including financial records, health data and communications with numerous individuals.  Cavoukian would like to have an independent, third-party review and assess Cellebrite’s textalyzer to verify that it will not access personal information.

ALBERTA’S DISTRACTED DRIVING LAWS

Penalties for distracted driving were increased on January 1, 2016 when the government of Alberta increased fines from $172 to $287, in addition to three demerit points.  Those who receive too many demerit points will have their driver’s licence suspended.

In Alberta, distracted driving laws apply to all roadways and according to the Traffic Safety Act prohibit drivers from exhibiting the following distracting behaviour while driving:

  • Using hand-held cell phones;
  • Texting or e-mailing;
  • Using electronic devices, such as laptop computers, video games, cameras and portable audio players;
  • Entering information on GPS units;
  • Reading printed materials;
  • Writing, printing or sketching; and
  • Taking part in any personal grooming, such as brushing and flossing teeth, putting on makeup, hair care, clipping nails or shaving.

HOW TO REDUCE DISTRACTED DRIVING

The law firm of Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers would like to recommend the following ways in which we can all reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents on our roadways caused by distracted driving:

  1. Stop Texting and Driving:  Texting while driving is dangerous and increases the risk of an accident.
  2. Put Away Your Cell Phone:  All activities involving a cellphone should be avoided while driving, including using maps and the GPS for navigation purposes.  If drivers are still tempted to use their phone while driving, the device should be turned off and stored in the vehicle out of the reach of the driver. 
  3. Avoid All Other Distractions:  Talking to passengers, listening to music, applying makeup, eating and drinking are all distracting behaviours that can increase the risk of an accident.
  4. Remind Your Loved Ones to Avoid Distracted Driving:  Do not be afraid to speak up if you notice that your loved ones are engaged in distracted behaviours while driving. 
  5. Leave Yourself Enough Time to Travel:  Leaving early will allow you the time to make safer driving decisions and the time to pull over to answer a phone call, if necessary.
  6. Avoid Multi-tasking:  It is important to focus on the road while driving and avoid completing other tasks.
  7. Plan Your Route in Advance:  Careful planning before you enter your vehicle will help you get where you are going.  If you are using a GPS device, be sure to program it before you start driving and use the audio feature to provide navigation instructions so you do not have to look at a screen while driving.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and distracted driving has played a role in the injuries you have suffered, you may be entitled to compensation for the damages you have suffered.  It is important that you call the lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers promptly so we can help you understand your rights and the potential to recover compensation for your injuries. Please contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers online or at 403-571-0555 for a free consultation today.

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