Radar guns have been used by police since 1949 to catch speeding drivers and are now being developed to also detect those texting and driving.
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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is dangerous, claiming 3,477 lives in 2015 alone [and] 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. ( . . . ) [T]exting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.” The NHTSA also announced that “During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. With smart phones offering consumers communication, shopping, entertainment and so much more on the go, it is hard to not look at our phones- even on short trips in the car. Ignoring the sound of a notification or delaying the sending of a quick message to a friend takes a lot of willpower to avoid.
Texting and driving
Many individuals that text and drive can appear to do so stealthily, often without being noticed by other drivers or law enforcement until their distracted driving gets them into trouble. Cell phone use prior to an accident is extremely common, so common in fact that those at fault are often blamed for using a cell phone use whenever a vehicle accident occurs from a driver who was distracted. Following an accident, law enforcement can usually determine whether or not a cell phone was actually in use leading up to the collision. Now however, officers would like to detect texting and driving prior to a potential accident.
Texting radar guns
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A company called ComSonics has been working on a radar gun that can help police detect whether or not a cell phone is being used in a moving vehicle. The texting radar gun, named Sniffer Sleuth uses radar technology to detect radio frequencies that are emitted from a cell phone during use. Every time a text is sent, a call is made, or the phone is otherwise being used by a distracted driver, the Sniffer Sleuth will be able to pick up on the change in frequencies, alerting the officer on the other side of the gun.
A work in progress
While the Sniffer Sleuth seems like a great idea to catch those who text or Facebook while driving, there are some concerns with its accuracy and thus its validity as proof of distracted driving. For one, a speeding radar gun targets the entire car yet a texting gun is going to pinpoint where in the moving car a phone is being used? Unless a driver is alone, it seems highly unlikely that a radar gun would be able to determine from where in the car the radio frequencies are being discharged from. Another issue is for those who are texting or calling legally through the use of hands-free technology such as Bluetooth connections in their vehicle. Although law enforcement should be able to note a driver is using one of these hands-free options after viewing the driver’s phone, that driver still has to deal with the embarrassment of being pulled over along with the loss of time from the traffic stop. The other major concern that is at stake is the privacy of the public. Will the texting radar guns be able to pick up any content of messages and if not, won’t law enforcement then be able to use more privacy concerning gadgets such as the Textalyzer? Finally, will officers use this new technology as a means of pulling over a suspicious vehicle whose driver is otherwise following the law?
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If someone is found guilty of texting while driving, they will face a class C misdemeanor or a class B misdemeanor if they cause an accident where someone is seriously injured. Utah Code 41-6a-1716 states unless for navigation or during an emergency, “A person may not use a handheld wireless communication device while operating a moving motor vehicle on a highway in this state to manually:
(a) write, send, or read a written communication, including:
(i) a text message;
(ii) an instant message; or
(iii) electronic mail;
(b) dial a phone number;
(c) access the Internet;
(d) view or record video; or
(e) enter data into a handheld wireless communication device”
Anyone facing charges following law enforcement’s use of text-detecting gadgets such as Sniffer Sleuths or Textlyers should speak to an attorney about the reliability of the information collected and whether or not it will hold up in court.