A Virginia company has been developing a device similar to a radar gun that will make it easier for police to spot texting drivers, reports Dave Forster for The Virginian-Pilot. Malcolm McIntyre, calibration services manager for the Harrisonburg, Va.-based company ComSonics, spoke about the device recently at the second annual Virginia Distracted Driving Summit, held in Richmond.
The device uses technology similar to what cable repair technicians use to locate the section of a cable that might have been damaged by rodents, Forster writes. The contraption, whose name has not yet been revealed publicly, searches for radio frequencies that are leaking in a transmission or emitting from a vehicle when an occupant is using a cellphone, Forster writes.
The ComSonics device would be able to differentiate between a text message, a phone call, and data transfer, Forster writes, adding:
That would prove particularly useful for law enforcement in states such as Virginia, where texting behind the wheel is banned but talking on the phone is legal for adult drivers.
According to Distraction.gov, Colorado bans texting for all drivers as a primary law, and bans all cellphone use (handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers.
As Patrick George writes for Code 3 Jalopnik, although ComSonics says the device is close to being ready to bring to market, it would first need legislative approval and adoption by law enforcement. George suggests that is a no-brainer:
But why wouldn’t they want to adopt it? According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, hand-held cell phone use is banned in 14 states, and 44 states ban texting while driving. You know they’re gonna want this soon so they can crack down and collect that ticket revenue. I mean, keep our roads safer.
Among the more than 160 comments people have posted to the Jalopnik article, skeptics question how any such laws could be enforced with the use of this gadget. For example, a post by facw says that despite studies showing that hands-free use of cellphones is very distracting for drivers, it is legal in most places. In addition, facw writes that music that streams over cellphones would not “look” very different from calling and texting.
And a writer named El-Verde, comments:
So when my phone, while sitting in my cupholder, automatically updates my gmail inbox, I get pulled over for “using” my phone?
Or when I have it in a cradle giving me GPS instructions, I get pulled over for “using” it?
Or when I’m on a bluetooth call, I get pulled over for “using” it?
This is stupid. And tickets for cell phone use are stupid. Make a radar gun that detects fools eating spaghetti with a fork, women putting on makeup, men shaving, etc, and I’ll get on board.
Forster writes that ComSonics started out in the cable TV industry. ComSonics’ website says it bases its work on guidelines published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and International Association of Chiefs of Police. The company was founded more than 40 years ago and has three dedicated bench repair facilities in California, Indiana, and Virginia, as well as four regionally located mobile labs.
In the U.S., as of December 2012, 171.3 billion text messages were sent (including in Puerto Rico, the Territories, and Guam) every month, according to Distraction.gov. In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in the U.S. in distracted-driving accidents, and an estimated 421,000 people were injured, Distraction.gov reports.