• Categories

  • Pages

  • Archives

The Rising Use Of fMRIs In The U.S. In Personal Injury Cases

For a number of years we’ve been watching the progressive use of fMRIs (functional MRI) in courts worldwide as truth detection tools ever since a woman in India was convicted of murdering her former fiance based on her brain’s reactions, captured by the imaging technology.  Below is that news story that grabbed our interest nearly a decade ago and then we delve into the current use of fMRIs in United States civil matters (the technology is not recognized for evidentiary purposes of guilt or innocence in criminal matters) is becoming a promising tool for personal injury attorneys trying to authoritatively define their clients pain levels.

MUMBAI, India — The new technology is, to its critics, Orwellian. Others view it as a silver bullet against terrorism that could render waterboardingand other harsh interrogation methods obsolete. Some scientists predict the end of lying as we know it.

Now, well before any consensus on the technology’s readiness, India has become the first country to convict someone of a crime relying on evidence from this controversial machine: a brain scanner that produces images of the human mind in action and is said to reveal signs that a suspect remembers details of the crime in question.

For years, scientists have peered into the brain and sought to identify deception. They have shot infrared beams through liars’ heads, placed them in giant magnetic resonance imaging machines and used scanners to track their eyeballs. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States has plowed money into brain-based lie detection in the hope of producing more fruitful counterterrorism investigations.

The technologies, generally regarded as promising but unproved, have yet to be widely accepted as evidence — except in India, where in recent years judges have begun to admit brain scans. But it was only in June, in a murder case in Pune, in Maharashtra State, that a judge explicitly cited a scan as proof that the suspect’s brain held “experiential knowledge” about the crime that only the killer could possess, sentencing her to life in prison.

=====================

Fast forward to now in the United States where fMRIs are not allowed as lie detectors in criminal court proceedings but are being used by personal injury attorneys to bolster their clients claims of pain.

Neuroscience in court: The painful truth

Salon

Brain-scanning techniques promise to give an objective measure of whether someone is in pain, but researchers question whether they are reliable enough for the courtroom.

 Annie is lying down when she answers the phone; she is trying to recover from a rare trip out of the house. Moving around for an extended period leaves the 56-year-old exhausted and with excruciating pain shooting up her back to her shoulders. “It’s really awful,” she says. “You never get comfortable.”

In 2011, Annie, whose name has been changed at the request of her lawyer, slipped and fell on a wet floor in a restaurant, injuring her back and head. The pain has never eased, and forced her to leave her job in retail.

Annie sued the restaurant, which has denied liability, for several hundred thousand dollars to cover medical bills and lost income. To bolster her case that she is in pain and not just malingering, Annie’s lawyer suggested that she enlist the services of Millennium Magnetic Technologies (MMT), a Connecticut-based neuroimaging company that has a centre in Birmingham, Alabama, where Annie lives. MMT says that it can detect pain’s signature using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures and maps blood flow in the brain as a proxy for neural activity.

The scan is not cheap — about US$4,500 — but Steven Levy, MMT’s chief executive, says that it is a worthwhile investment: the company has had ten or so customers since it began offering the service in 2013, and all have settled out of court, he says. If the scans are admitted to Annie’s trial, which is expected to take place early this year, it could establish a legal precedent in Alabama.

Most personal-injury cases settle out of court, so it is impossible to document how often brain scans for pain are being used in civil law. But the practice seems to be getting more common, at least in the United States, where health care is not covered by the government and personal-injury cases are frequent. Several companies have cropped up, and at least one university has offered the service.

The approach is based on burgeoning research that uses fMRI to understand the nature of pain — a very subjective experience. Scientists hope that the scans can provide an objective measure of that experience, and they see potential applications, such as in testing painkillers. But many neuroscientists say that the techniques are still far from being accurate enough for the courtroom. Critics say that the companies using them have not validated their tests or proved that they are impervious to deception or bias. And whereas some think the technologies will have a place in legal settings, others worry that the practice will lead to misuse of the scans.

“There’s a real desire to come up with some more-objective proxy for pain,” says Karen Davis, a neuroscientist at the University of Toronto in Canada. But such measures must be extremely accurate, she says. “The outcome of having a wrong answer can be quite catastrophic.”

Neural origins

The methods that doctors commonly use to assess pain can seem crude. People are asked to rate their pain on a scale from one to ten, or choose from a row of cartoon faces that go from happy to anguished. These measures can help to chart changes in pain, as someone recovers from surgery, for example. But each person will experience and rate their pain differently, so one person’s five could be worse than another’s seven, and a nine might or might not be bad enough to keep someone from working.

An objective answer should lie in the brain, where the experience of pain is ultimately constructed. And although every experience is different, pain should share some common elements. Neuroscientist Tor Wager at the University of Colorado Boulder has been trying to decipher pain’s signature in the brain by placing people in an fMRI scanner while they touch a hot plate. As the researchers turn the plate’s temperature up and down, they record the activity across different parts of the brain, including the sensory regions associated with the hand. From these patterns, Wager says, they can predict with better than 90% accuracy whether the plate is just warm or painfully hot1.

“There’s a real desire to come up with some more-objective proxy for pain.”

But this measures acute pain — the immediate response to an obvious stimulus. Chronic pain, like Annie’s, affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. And although its cause can be obvious, that is not always the case. Vania Apkarian of Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois has scanned dozens of individuals soon after a back injury and then again over the course of a year or more. The pain went on to become chronic in roughly half of those people, and even though they described the pain the same way throughout, Apkarian could detect a shift in the pain signature in their brains2. It changed from a signal of activity in the insula, which is associated with acute pain, to one of activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which processes cognitive behaviour, and the amygdala, which controls emotion. “Our interpretation is that the pain is becoming more internalized,” Apkarian says.

This and other work suggests that there is an emotional component to chronic pain that is not necessarily involved in acute pain. Chronic pain and depression often coexist and reinforce one another. And some chronic pain can be eased with antidepressant drugs. But Wager cautions that focusing on these links can be treacherous. Suggesting that pain is all in the head — even if that is technically the case — does not mean that it is imagined or faked. “People will always go to that black and white line,” he says.

That line is a particular challenge in legal settings. “A person cannot be found disabled based on pain unless they can point to a specific cause,” says Amanda Pustilnik, a legal expert at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Isolated instances

The United States sees tens of thousands of injury lawsuits every year, most of which involve claims of unresolved pain. But that might be unusually high — countries with national health systems, such as Canada, see fewer lawsuits, says Davis. So far, the only pain case involving brain-imaging techniques known to have progressed to trial involved a truck driver named Carl Koch, whose wrist was burned by a glob of molten asphalt in 2005. A year later, he said he was still in pain and sued his former employer, Western Emulsions in Tucson, Arizona, for damages.

Koch had had his brain scanned by Joy Hirsch, a neuroscientist who was running the fMRI Research Center at Columbia University in New York City. Hirsch had developed a method that she says can “tap into” chronic pain. Lightly touching the affected wrist provoked a signal in sensory regions and other brain areas associated with pain; touching the other wrist did not. The test, she says, is a well-characterized way to distinguish allodynia — a pain response to a stimulus that does not normally cause pain — from imagined pain.

At the trial, Western Emulsions called Sean Mackey, a neurologist at Stanford University in Redwood City, California, as an expert witness. Mackey maintained that pain is too subjective to measure in this way and that the signature Hirsch was detecting could have been produced if Koch had expected to feel pain in the affected wrist or was unduly concentrating on it — deliberately or not. Hirsch argued that there are known signals for imagined pain that were not apparent in the scans.

Ultimately, the judge admitted the scan, and the case settled for $800,000 — more than ten times the company’s initial offering, according to Koch’s lawyer, Roger Strassburg.

========================

We find the use of our brain’s functions fascinating and will bring you updates on the expanding use of fMRIs and other brain imaging technologies as the develop.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

From Breathlyzers To Personal Safety Companions – Five Worthwhile SmartPhone Apps

Our smartphones are becoming smarter and more helpful almost by the day, it seems.

We’ve identified several apps that we believe will aid our readers in making informed decisions about their health and  safety.

  1. BACTrac:   Transforms your Smartphone into a breathalyzer. Open the app and get your estimated Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) in seconds.  Can also be accessed remotely so that you can monitor young drivers and or family and friends.  Comes in a police grade model too.
  2. Doctors On Demand:   A doctor who is with you always – everyday.  Available when you are and without the hassle of the waiting room. Connect in minutes with board-certified doctors and therapists over live video.
  3. Eye Que: Your personal vision tracker.  The affordable way to test, track and correct your eye sight.
  4. First Aid:  If there’s an app that can save a life, the First Aid mobile app from the American Red Cross is it. With expert advice for everyday emergencies, you’ll be prepared to handle anything life throws your way. Or, you might just save someone else’s life thanks to the First Aid app’s step-by-step instructions.
  5. Companion: For many of us, walking home alone at night is a dangerous but unavoidable part of life. The free Companion app sends a live map of your walk home to the loved ones you assign to act as “companions.” Companions don’t even have to download the app; they are texted a link to a GPS-enabled map that will allow them to see where you are on your trip home. If your headphone gets yanked out, your phone falls to the ground, or you start running, the app will ask you if you are OK or if you want to call the police. If you don’t respond within 15 seconds, the app will notify your companions that something is amiss.

We’ll post more articles on helpful apps as they are developed.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

 

Happy Fourth of July!

Wishing our beloved readers a happy and safe Independence Day – Happy Fourth of July!!

 

 

Insurance Companies’ New BFFs – Private Plate Readers

We ran into a case recently wherein the insurance company refused to pay out on a claim based on information they received from a private plate reading company (Digital Recovery Network, or DRN, referenced in the below article) that the claimant was nowhere near the scene of an alleged hit and run incident that rendered his vehicle totaled.

From Consumerist:

When you hear the phrase “vast hidden network of cameras that scan license plates,” what do you think of? The police? The Department of Homeland Security? While the government and privacy advocates argue over government use of plate-scanning data, private companies are already collecting and selling that data with little regulation.

The Boston Globe’s BetaBoston brought this industry to our attention. There happens to be a bill up for discussion right now that would ban private-sector license plate data collection and scanning in Massachusetts.

The most logical private-sector application of this technology is to track down and collect cars with delinquent payments. Indeed, many cameras are mounted on tow trucks or unmarked cars belonging to recovery companies. Spotter cars love to check office parking lots during the day, and malls and sporting events on weekends and after hours.

Okay, but you’re current on your car payments, so you have nothing to worry about. Right? Nope. The plate-scanning companies don’t just erase all of that data. They’re keeping a massive database of which cars were in which locations at what time. Government entities have to purge their data, but private companies don’t. It’s all for sale. If you’re out driving or parked on the street, after all, your plate is visible to everyone. Cameras too. Here’s a visual primer on how it works.

“I fear that the proposed legislation would essentially create a safe haven in the Commonwealth for certain types of criminals, it would reduce the safety of our officers, and it could ultimately result in lives lost,” the vice president of marketing for Vigilant said in his testimony at a transportation committee meeting today. Vigilant just happens to be the parent company of Digital Recovery Network, or DRN, a company that sells plate-scanning cameras and the data they collect.

This has been really great for the recovery industry, and we don’t begrudge banks taking back cars once the owners have defaulted on their loans. Well, as long as they have the right car. It’s the “collecting and selling the data” thing that most people have more trouble with. DRN claims that it has scans about 40% of the vehicles in the United States at least every year, and competitor TLO brags that its cameras have probably seen every car in the country at least once, and they have a database of over a billion sightings of individual cars ready for companies to mine. Who’s searching this data? Who the hell knows? Private investigators can use it. So can insurance companies.

================================

I imagine there will be even more nefarious uses of this plate location information so my advice to all is that you keep in mind that when you are traveling, you are always being monitored. 1984 has finally arrived.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

What You Need to Know About Text-to-911

Text-to-911 is the ability to send a text message to reach 911 emergency call takers from your mobile phone or device. However, because text-to-911 is currently only available in certain locations, you should always make a voice call to contact 911 during an emergency whenever possible.

The FCC encourages emergency call centers to begin accepting texts as text providers develop text-to-911 capability, but it is up to each call center to decide the particular method in which to implement and deploy text-to-911 technology.

FCC rules require all wireless carriers and other providers of text messaging applications in the United States to deliver emergency texts to call centers that request them. If a call center requests text-to-911 service, text messaging providers must deliver the service in that area within six months.

To check to see if the 911 call center in your area supports text-to-911, download our list of areas supporting available service (updated monthly). But even in areas where call centers accept text-to-911, existing voice-based 911 service is still the most reliable and preferred method of contact.

How to contact 911

If you use a wireless phone or other type of mobile device, make sure to do the following in an emergency:

  • Always contact 911 by making a voice call, if you can.
  • If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech disabled, and text-to-911 is not available, use a TTY or a telecommunications relay service, if possible.
  • Remember that in most cases you cannot reach 911 by sending a text message.

Bounce-back messages

If you attempt to send a text to 911 where the service is not yet available, FCC rules require all wireless carriers and other text messaging providers to send an automatic “bounce-back” message that will advise you to contact emergency services by another means, such as making a voice call or using telecommunications relay service (for persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability). Bounce-back messages are intended to minimize your risk of mistakenly believing that a text to 911 has been transmitted to an emergency call center.

Which service providers are not required to support text-to-911?

  • The FCC’s text-to-911 rules do not apply to text messaging applications that do not support texting to and from U.S. phone numbers.
  • Text messaging apps that only support texting with other app users or texting via social media are not required to support text-to-911.

Print Out

Text-to-911 Guide (pdf)

Bottom line: In an emergency: Call if you can, text if you can’t.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Drones: Insurance Industry Game Changers.

With the expanded popularity and use of drones for everything from aerial surveillance to Amazon deliveries, it was only a matter of time before their impact was felt in the claims industry.  The four main areas of impact from drone technology  in the insurance field include:

  1. On site investigation and accident reconstruction.
  2. Surveillance and the monitoring of disabilities.
  3. Claims settlements.
  4. New forms of insurance coverage for drones.

While the current cost of sending field adjusters to investigate accident scenes is high, these fees can soon be mitigated by the use of drones for these services.  Additional benefits of drone usage in the insurance business are ease and rapidity of deployment, liability determination and injury confirmation.

Drones will also be playing  a significantly larger role in fighting insurance fraud through possible surveillance of bodily injury/workers’ compensation claimants.

 

There are, however, liability risks associated with drones, like the potential for drones to drop out of the sky and because they fly at low altitudes, there is the risk of a drone crash possibly causing property or personal injury damage.  Also, certainly we will see lawsuits relating to drone use alleging invasion of privacy.

 

Nonetheless, drone use is not only here to stay but will expand dramatically as the technology improves, making its inclusion in insurance matters a cornerstone of that industry.  It’ll be interesting to see how the law adapts to the inevitable drone factor.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Why Lawyers Should Be Paranoid About Client Confidentiality

From Clio, January, 2017:

In April 2016, a lawsuit was filed claiming one Chicago-based law firm had failed to protect confidential client information.

The suit didn’t accuse lawyers at the firm of inadvertently sharing client information. In fact, according to The American Lawyer, “[t]he complaint makes no claim that data was stolen or used against clients.” The claim solely focuses on the fact that lax data security could have put client information at risk.

Talk about an eye-opener, for lawyers and others (such as private investigators) who retain confidential information during the normal course of business.  And, it could be inadvertent actions – usually online – that can cause these security breaches.

Client confidentiality in the age of social media:

Consider the amount of information that gets shared on social media:

  • Facebook users send 31.25 million messages per minute
  • Twitter users send nearly 350,000 tweets per minute
  • Instagram users post almost 50,000 photos each minute

If you’re a lawyer, you need to take extra care when using social media. There are plenty of ways your tweets or posts could inadvertently breach client confidentiality.

For example, if you use Swarm to check in at Starbucks during a client meeting, you could inadvertently disclose your client’s location as well. This may be an issue if your client wishes to remain anonymous, or if they don’t want it to be known that they have legal representation.

Photos can also be a problem. You should be more aware than lawyer and politician Kris Kobach, who accidentally revealed notes on proposed immigration policy in a photo with Donald Trump. You should always be extremely aware of what might be in the eye of a camera lens. Your son could take an impromptu photo while you’re catching up on some work at the dining room table; if there’s any sensitive information is visible in the image,  you need to make sure that photo doesn’t get posted online (and does get deleted from his device).

Steps lawyers need to take on social media

Does this mean you need to stop using social media? No. But you do need to reconcile the practice of sharing information online with the need to keep client information confidential.

Here are a few things you can do to ensure you’re protecting client information:

  • Go private on Facebook. This is a simple step for all lawyers (and for anyone using Facebook, for that matter). Go to “Settings,”, then “Privacy,” and set all of the visibility options so that only “Friends” can see your profile. If you want to market your law firm on Facebook, set up a separate Facebook page—and be extra mindful of the information you’re sharing on it.
  • Use two-factor authentication. Using two-factor authentication to protect your online accounts is one of the most effective steps you can take to protect client information.
  • Don’t use live mic technology. Someone’s always listening. Amazon hasn’t given up user data in this now-infamous murder case from late 2016 (so far), but that doesn’t mean you should put client information at risk by keeping an Echo or an equivalent device inside your office.  And definitely ensure that no one in your office is walking around with a live mic device.

In short, you want to do everything you can to prevent unauthorized access to client information. In 2017, that means a lot more than just shutting the door each time you meet with your clients.

BNI Operatives; situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

 

Working Around Invisible or Partially Available Social Media Profiles

As part of our due diligence during a subject’s comprehensive background check, we generally begin with a review of social media.  Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are primary and initial stops in the identification verification aspect of a background check. (For the purpose of this week’s article, we will concentrate on business connection site, LinkedIn.)
Searching for your subject through Linkedin may return an invisible profile if you’re not in your subject’s connections network. Your Linkedin network consists of your 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections and your group members. The more connections, the more full profiles available to you. You can also see attachments such as resumes.

Once you have your subject’s Linkedin profile, Google the name or search for it through bing.com to get the profile URL.

Linkedin Profile at Bing

Paste that URL into a private viewing web browser.

Private Linkedin Profile

This result is what we want to view and download.

See Resume

If the Linkedin resume is stored at their slideshare.net account, you can find it via a quick Google search- while in an incognito browser session:

Slideshare Resume Search

Select the top entry link and you will be taken to the full resume.  Download.

Slideshare resume download

Mission accomplished! The above method is a viable workaround to the limitations placed on profile sharing by social media.  Where there’s a will…

BNI Operatives; Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

An App That Allows Children & Teens To Cyber Bully Other Kids


Who on earth would develop an app that would allow, rather, encourage children to bully one another?? A company that claims it is a business site seeking true feedback for executives.   Yet, a members collage banner on the site’s home page features its alleged subscribers – one is a kid holding up his middle finger, another is of a 10 y.o. girl and a third is comprised of two teen “chicks” sporting that annoying duck face pose. (Hey, if they want to look stupid,  I will use a silly description.)

From The Telegraph, May 18, 2017:

UPDATE MAY 29, 2017: THE SITE, SAYAT.ME,  IS BACK ONLINE.

The Sayat.me website was taken offline by its administrators following the suicide of George Hessay, a teenager from Goole, East Yorkshire, who had been allegedly abused over the app.

The app, which is a growing craze among teenagers, allow users to post anonymous “feedback” about their friends. It has been criticised for creating a vehicle for cyber-bullying among school children.

Sayat.me, which is based in Estonia, is designed for business users seeking “constructive, honest feedback” from colleagues and clients. It has 30 million users, many of whom are believed to be teenagers.

The app is a growing craze among teenagers
The app was designed to provide businesses with feedback but is increasingly being used by teenagers

Last week Hessay, a keen footballer, took his own life after being allegedly bullied by his peers on the app.

Hanna Talving, the CEO of Sayat.me, said: “We have been made aware by police that they are investigating a bullying related suicide and we offer our sincere condolences to those affected by this loss.

“We deplore bullying of any kind and want it to have no place on our site. We will offer any assistance we can to the police. We have suspended use of the website to show how seriously we take these matters.”

Friends paid tribute to the teenager on Facebook, with Joely Baxter writing: “George Hessay was such a nice boy who cared about everyone and made sure everyone was ok.

“He really didn’t deserve what happened to him, nobody does and I think that whoever wrote things about him on that stupid Sayat.me thing should be ashamed and grow some balls and own up to it because whoever did it was sick in the head”.

I cannot image what was going through this promising young man’s head when he took his own life because he was being so badly cyber abused that he felt life was not worth living.  I also cannot imagine the family’s shock, pain and incomprehension at such a finite action taken by their loved one.  My heart goes out to George’s family and friends.

Now let me offer some advice to the people who were surely in George’s life but to be applied to those now in the lives of children and teens being cyberbullied:

  • Friends: You may be young but you know right from wrong. Speak up. Being quiet makes your friend who is targeted believe that no one cares or that what is being said about him is true,
  • Teachers: You see the kids snickering at a particular student. Speak up. Dirty looks only go do far.
  • Parents: You know your child, the sneaky looks with malicious intent. Speak up. Or run the risk of raising a punk.

If you believe your child is being bullied, contact StompOutBullying.org.  Anyone who has raised a teen knows that, often, adults are the last ones they may want to talk to about their problems.  Stomp Out offers a free hotline for teens 13+ who are being bullied to reach out and speak to peers.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Text Test By Police: The New Breathalyzer.

From Forbes, 05.15.2017:

Legislation that’s working its way through Albany could allow New York authorities to check drivers’ phones for signs of distraction following an accident, and to impose penalties for refusing that could burden drivers down the road.

A bill that would legalize the use of “textazlyer” devices for determining activity on drivers’ phones is seeing bipartisan support from New York lawmakers, WGRZ Buffalo reported. If passed, it could make New York the first state to implement the technology for catching distracted drivers, who contributed to more than 10,000 traffic fatalities in the last year alone, according to WGRZ.

Now moving through senate and assembly committees, the bill would require drivers who’ve been involved in an accident to let authorities scan their phones for evidence of recent use, or face penalties and license suspension, both at the time and later on, if they refuse. Once developed, the field test could allow officers to quickly generate a time-stamped report on which applications were running and whether drivers were using devices ‘hands on’ or ‘hands free’-style around the time of the accident, according to NPR.

State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer (R-Amherst), who co-sponsored the bill, told WGRZ that a textalyzer tool would not access other content on the phone, nor be able to read text messages, for example, that drivers may have sent or received on the road. Ranzehofer also said the bill could be passed in the legislature by the end of its current session, which concludes next month, and assured WGRZ, “If the device was trolling through your information, I would not be in support of it.”

In New York, the legislation would be known as Evan’s Law, named for 19-year-old Evan Lieberman, who was killed in a 2011 car crash that was later found to be the result of distracted driving. His father Ben Lieberman told NPR he’d “found out the hard way” after his son’s death that obtaining driver phone records after an accident can be “an agonizing process.”

“We often hear, ‘just get a warrant’ or ‘just get the phone records,’ [implying] that the warrant is like filling out some minor form … In New York, it involves a D.A. and a judge. Imagine getting a D.A. and a judge involved in every breathalyzer that’s administered,” he told NPR. Once obtained, such records only show activities like calls and texts, Lieberman said, but not whether drivers were checking email, browsing Twitter, or using any number of other popular apps and platforms.

Recently, Lieberman and representatives of Cellebrite, an Israeli tech developer, demonstrated the textalyzer system they’ve been working on before lawmakers in New York. CBS New York reported that Cellebrite hopes to finish the technology in around nine months, and said the final product will be designed to protect drivers’ data by only seeking evidence of activity on their phones. “For this device, the whole purpose is not to get any data,” said Jim Grady, CEO of Cellebrite USA, to CBS. “So no, police won’t be able to, unless they rewrite our code.”

Depending on the final product, the bill may also force drivers who, for whatever reason, want to protect their privacy by refusing to surrender phones to face some difficult decisions. According to the bill, everyone operating a motor vehicle which “has been involved in an accident or collision involving damage to real or personal property, personal injury, or death, and who has in his [sic] possession at or near the time of such accident or collision, a mobile telephone or electronic device,” would be required to submit such device or devices for on-the-spot field testing upon authorities’ request.

If a driver refuses to surrender their phone for ‘textalyzing,’ they could be subject to a variety of consequences under the bill, starting with the immediate suspension of their driver’s license. In such case, “The police officer will inform the driver that the person’s license or permit to drive and any non-resident operating privilege shall be immediately suspended and subsequently revoked,” the bill explains, while the record of refusal itself “shall be admissible in any trial, proceeding, or hearing” based on a violation of related distracted driving laws, and makes drivers vulnerable to higher fees and heavier punishment later on–all of which could weigh particularly heavily on low-income drivers, those whose employment relies on having an active license, and other disproportionately targeted groups.

According to the Tennessee Law Blog, similar technology is already being used by the FBI, while a number of states are also eyeing the system as a way to bring down the large number of U.S. road fatalities each year.

===============================

My opinion: Textalyzer field testing is a huge overreach by the government and undoubtedly backed by insurance companies, who have become de facto arms of law enforcement of late.  We all know how this will turn up – FUBAR’d to heck and any personal privacy will be gone forever.  Are we seriously becoming such big babies that we can’t restrain ourselves from having to text non-urgent messages while driving? We need government to monitor our every movement because we can’t trust ourselves? With all due respect to those who have lost loved ones to distracted drivers- it’s not the cell, it’t the driver.  It’s after the fact.  If a person isn’t conscious of their actions, endangering everyone else’s privacy is not the answer.  There are apps out there that won’t allow texting while driving for our inexperienced drivers or the weak-willed:

From PolicyGenius:

Drive First
Drive First comes straight from Sprint, and it’s cool that carriers are getting into the no-texting-while-driving game. Your phone automatically locks when you start driving, so no need to start or stop the app, and it automatically replies to texts. But sometimes you need access to things on your phone, right? Drive First lets you set 3 driving apps – like maps or music – so you can get what you need without being tempted to text. You can also set VIP contacts to bypass the block so important people like your husband or boss aren’t blocked every time you get into the car.

Focus
You might have heard of Focus if you’re a fan of Note to Self. The episode that featured Focus was…um, focused on “wexting” – walking and texting – but it works just as well for driving. Like DriveMode, Focus doesn’t actually block anything. Instead, it works to train you to not use your phone while you’re driving. When you’re using it, Focus will tell you to pay attention to your driving. And honestly, while it starts off with gentle reminders, it can get kind of aggressive. If you’re not someone who handles confrontation well, you’ll probably learn quickly. You get report cards emailed to you so you can see how you (or someone else, like your kids) did. If you’re looking to form habits instead of just have your phone locked down, consider Focus.

Drive Mode
If you want something that’s a little less intense, consider Drive Mode. (Not to be confused with the above DriveMode. I know.) It doesn’t block anything, but it does prevent your lockscreen from enabling, so no more typing in PINs or swiping patterns, and it automatically switches calls to your speakerphone. It’s pretty simple, but those two changes remove a lot of the distractions you face from your phone.

TextNoMore
TextNoMore is interesting because it gives you an incentive to not text and drive (besides, you know, not dying). When you’re about to drive, you start the app and put in your estimated driving time. It’ll shut down notifications – nothing revolutionary about that – but the service is partnered with various retailers to provide coupons if you don’t text. It also shows missing children notifications once the app shuts down, so you can feel like you’re doing good, too. The app itself is a little rough-looking, but it’s an intriguing idea and it’ll be interesting to see if others implement similar features.

===========================

For now, keep your eyes on the road and your cell in your pocket, purse or glove compartment, if you really need to.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: