Intriguing tool for distracted driving

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To curtail texting and more, police must get serious about compliance.

THIS IS A GREAT IDEA. The Associated Press reports a New York father, whose son was killed in a traffic accident ultimately proven to involve texting and distracted driving, has channeled his grief into developing something called a "textalyzer."

The idea is that police at the scene of an accident could plug the device into drivers' cell phones to immediately gather evidence of distracted driving. The concept is being compared to the use of "breathalyzers" to detect drunk driving.

Some pushback is occurring, claiming plugging into people's phones would risk an invasion of personal lives because smartphones contain so much information. That is not an idle concern, and it requires more active prevention than simply trusting cops.

SUCH AS THIS: If state laws allow the "textalyzer," make it a criminal offense for authorities to access information from the phone not pertinent to an accident investigation.

Knowing if drivers were distracted and fiddling with their phones is worthwhile, just as worthwhile as knowing if they were drinking or under the influence of drugs. Society's interest in enforcing appropriate operation of motor vehicles seems clear.

By the way, police could do a lot more on that front. Nearly all states have laws prohibiting texting and driving, and more than a dozen ban the use of any hand-held device while behind the wheel. Laws, however, only matter if they are enforced.

Old-timers can put that in context with seat-belt laws. Such laws were on the books for years, but it took decisions to strictly enforce non-compliance before people developed the habit of buckling up. We suspect the same would be true with laws prohibiting misuse of personal electronic devices like smartphones.

Just use your own experiences on the road. We all see cars every day around us with drivers jabbering away or texting on phones. That will continue unless police officers start papering the abusers with tickets.

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