CARSON CITY, Nev. — Most states ban texting behind the wheel, but a legislative proposal could make Nevada one of the first states to allow police to use a contentious technology to find out if a person was using a cellphone during a car crash.

The measure is igniting privacy concerns and has led lawmakers to question the practicality of the technology, even while acknowledging the threat of distracted driving.

The future of the Nevada proposal isn’t clear. A similar measure introduced in 2017 failed in the New York Legislature, but lawmakers are considering it again.

Law enforcement officials argue that distracted driving is underreported and that weak punishments do little to stop drivers from texting, scrolling or otherwise using their phones. Adding to the problem, they say there is no consistent police practice that holds those drivers accountable for traffic crashes, unlike drunken driving.

If the Nevada measure passes, it would allow police to use a device known as the “textalyzer,” which connects to a cellphone and looks for user activity, such as opening a Facebook messenger call screen. It is made by Israel-based company Cellebrite, which says the technology does not access or store personal content.

It has not been tested in the field and is not being used by any law enforcement agencies. The company said the device could be tested in the field if the Nevada legislation passes.

Advocate Ben Lieberman of New York, who lost his 19-year-old son to a crash where a driver had been texting, has become the face of the push for the device.


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