Family hopes 'Textalyzer' and 'Evan's Law' will stop distracted driving

Josh Einiger Image
Thursday, November 17, 2016
'Textalyzer' can show if you're texting behind the wheel
Josh Einiger has an exclusive look at new technology to detect texting behind the wheel.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- He had a whole future ahead of him, but Evan Lieberman never had the chance to live it.

The 19-year-old college freshman from Chappaqua had been in the backseat of his friend's car when it sailed over the center line and slammed into an oncoming Jeep.

"Evan spent 30 days in the hospital before we eventually lost him right in front of our eyes," said Ben Lieberman, Evan's father.

The records show the driver's phone had been in use, though cops had no way to prove that he was texting at the time of the crash, so he was never charged.

"At first I thought it was a faulty investigation, but then I realized there's just no police protocol in place," Ben said.

"Ben Lieberman contacted us about this problem," said Jim Grady, of Cellebrite.

That's where Grady comes in. He's the U.S. CEO of an Israeli company called Cellebrite which specializes in data forensics. Basically, they crack smartphones for law enforcement.

But when it comes to distracted driving, Grady quickly discovered Cellebrite's technology can help.

Say you're driving 55mph and you so much as look at your cell phone for just five seconds. By the time you look up, you'll have traveled a great distance.

"I'm going to say hi and send you that text message," Grady said.

In an empty parking lot in Parsippany, Grady and Eyewitness News Reporter Josh Einiger texted each other as he drove, so his team could demonstrate what they call the Textalyzer.

They've developed software that can detect if, and precisely when, a certain device has been used.

"You'll notice there is no user content displayed whatsoever. No phone numbers, no content of texts, no images," said Mo Cook, of Cellebrite.

The idea is to give police probable cause in a crash investigation while protecting the user's privacy. All the software can see is if the person has been texting.

"The problem is begging for a solution and somebody's got to do it," Ben said.

Lieberman turned his grief into action, lobbying in Albany for Evan's law. If passed, New York will be the first state in the union to let cops carry devices like this, the same way they carry breathalyzers.

After all, the loss of a child is simply unthinkable. Evan's dad hopes this will make drivers think twice before texting to protect another family from such searing pain.