I have never been scared of death like the day my friend and neighbor drove me from Nakuru to Nairobi. He was doing mostly over 120kph and hardly five minutes passed before he could take a quick or a long look at his phone. Over 90% of those times, he was either reading or replying to a text message. He is a pro driver I must say as he never swerved nor failed to notice an oncoming speeding and overtaking vehicle. He never put us in immediate danger, but the trip was scary nonetheless and I swear he’ll never drive me again – never. Textalyser is a device being developed for him and many others like him.
The major cause of fatal road accidents in Kenya is still being cited as drunk driving, a situation that has forced the government to legislate for and implement the use of alcoblow in our roads. Surprisingly, Kenyans who went to school and pursued post high school education to Bachelors and post Bachelors levels in our esteemed Universities like the University of Nairobi campaigned against the use of alcoblow, and even went ahead to set up a Twitter Account specifically meant to warn drunk drivers of where the alcoblow police had stationed themselves. These are the same Kenyans who are quick to point fingers on the government by blaming the accidents on corrupt traffic police, poor roads, lack of road marks, and presence of road unworthy vehicles on our roads.
The same Kenyans who have gone to school sometimes up to post PhD levels, the Kenyans with smartphones and drive the latest number plates, are the same Kenyans who text and drive. They are the types of people providing business opportunities for companies like Cellebrite to make and market textalyser like products for detecting those who have been using a smartphone when driving.
Also read: Technology is the solution to road accidents
According to Arstechnica.com, the textalyser by Cellebrite, the Israeli company that is said to have helped the FBI to hack an iPhone that Apple had declined to provide access to, will be able to determine whether a driver was using a mobile phone ahead of a crash. Although the textalyser will not be able to breach privacy e.g. by accessing drivers’ photos, contacts, the actual text messages in a phone or the call log, the device will able to tell “whether the phone was in use prior to a motor-vehicle mishap”. Already a legislation dubbed Evan’s Law in memory of a 19-year-old Evan Lieberman who was killed in a road crash due to his driver using a mobile phone when driving has been put forth in New York to legalise the use of a textalyser in New York roads.
In the US, The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year and that nearly 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving. In addition, 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.
Back in Kenya, in the 2015 report of road accidents by NTSA mentioned that one of the major causes of fatal road accidents is text driving and text walking by pedestrians. According to iii.org, cell phones were reported as a distraction for 14 percent of all distracted drivers in fatal crashes in Kenya. In 2014, distracted driving was reported in crashes that killed 3,179 people.
Even though the two reports suggest that the rate of accidents caused by text driving in the US are higher than in Kenya, when compared against the number of people who own cars/phones and population of the two countries it is easy to see that in relative terms the rate of accidents in Kenya caused by text driving is on the higher side. It therefore means that if the US can find the use of a textalyser is as important as the use of breathalyser in reducing the rate of accidents on their roads, then Kenya will find the use of such a textalyser even more necessary to instill discipline in our rather rogue drivers – as according to the proposed Evan’s Law, one of the penalties for the drivers found using phones while driving will to have their phones confisticated.
It might sound like good news that in the near future the textalyser will be able to save many innocent lives from impromptu deaths, as according to 2015 statistics on road accidents in Kenya, majority (774) of those killed in Kenyan roads are people aged between 15 and 44 years. This is compared against 183 deaths of those aged 45 years and above and another 128 deaths of those aged between 14 years and below – statistics that seem to be rising year in year out – meaning before the textalyser can arrive in the US and later in Kenya, we shall have lost many thousands other youthful lives – lives of the educated Kenyans that could have come along way in developing this country.
If you are reading this article and you love drinking, and you normally drive, and you own a smartphone, and you went to school, I am asking you to not be stupid. There is a reason you haven’t committed suicide since you were born. It is the same reason you look forward to being alive tomorrow. It is the same reason that should always remind you to not drink and drive – to not text and drive – to not be stupid enough to use that anti-alcoblow Twitter Account to warn stupid drunk drivers of where the alcoblow police officers are stationed.
And by the way, textalyser will not prevent a stupid texting driver from being involved in a fatal road accident. Neither does alcoblow. Just like alcoblow, textalyser will only be useful in sending you to jail or extorting a hefty fine from you if and only if you will still be alive by the time you are caught. Be smart.