Should Ontario Use Smartphone-Testing Technology to Stop Distracted Driving?

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car accident lawyers consider distracted driving prevention options

Road safety experts are desperate to address distracted driving in Ontario. There have been more deaths linked to distracted driving (44) than impaired driving (34) this year, according to a report from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), and car accident lawyers are fielding calls from a growing number of clients who believe the dangerous behaviour caused their injuries.

“We literally are running into a crisis proportion of pedestrians getting hit, struck, killed and hurt,” one founding member of Coalition for Vulnerable Road User Laws told the CBC. “We don’t always have to be last in safety.”

The situation has become so dire that some safety activists are calling for experimental law enforcement techniques, including using new technology that can detect whether drivers have been texting behind the wheel. The Textalyzer was developed by Israel-based manufacturer Cellebrite and is being trialed in New York, Chicago, and the State of Nevada. It allows police to conduct roadside tests of motorists’ mobile devices.

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

News of the Textalyzer has been met with privacy concerns. Canadians store vast troves of personal data and sensitive information on their phones, and it’s unclear whether police should be able to access the devices on the suspicion of distracted driving, alone. The provincial government said in a statement to the CBC that it considers these concerns when reviewing new enforcement technology.

“Any new or enhanced enforcement tools are reviewed as part of this ongoing monitoring and evaluation process,” the statement read. “Such a review would include addressing any privacy concerns, as many individuals store personal information in cellphones.”

Toronto safety activists, and even some aggressive car accident lawyers, believe privacy risks are a fair price to pay for safer streets.

“It’s total garbage,” said Friends and Family for Safe Streets spokesperson Jessica Spieker, regarding the privacy concerns, to the CBC. “It’s no more invasive than a breathalyzer, and we’ve come to accept breathalyzers as a due matter of course when impaired driving is suspected. All [the Textalyzer] tells you is if you’re distracted by your phone or not.”

The Province of Ontario hasn’t expressed any interest in using the Textalyzer or similar smartphone-testing technology to reduce distracted driving. However, if the problem continues to cause serious injuries and deaths around the province, the government will be forced to take action.

If, in the meantime, you or a member of your family is injured in a motor vehicle accident involving distracted driving, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to learn how we can help. Our experienced team of car accident lawyers can provide guidance and advice as you consider your legal options.


Image credit: Flickr/dwightsghost

Greg Neinstein, B.A. LLB., is the Managing Partner at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers LLP. His practice focuses on serious injury and complex insurance claims, including motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall injuries, long-term disability claims and insurance claims. Greg has extensive mediation and trial experience and has a reputation among his colleagues as a skillful negotiator.
Greg Neinstein
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