Texting and driving? Watch out for the Textalyzer

Harvard’s School of Public Health, for example, is developing a new push based on the effective designated driver campaign it orchestrated in the United States beginning in the late 1980s. Candace Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, has helped found a new group this year, Partnership for Distraction-Free Driving, which is circulating a petition to pressure social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to discourage multitasking by drivers, in the same way that Ms. Lightner pushed beer and liquor companies to discourage drunken driving.

The most provocative idea, from lawmakers in New York, is to give police officers a new device that is the digital equivalent of the Breathalyzer — a roadside test called the Textalyzer.

It would work like this: An officer arriving at the scene of a crash could ask for the phones of any drivers involved and use the Textalyzer to tap into the operating system to check for recent activity.

The technology could determine whether a driver had used the phone to text, email or do anything else that is forbidden under New York’s hands-free driving laws, which prohibit drivers from holding phones to their ear.