These days, radar guns track more than 90 mph fastballs and aspiring race car drivers whizzing down open roads. They can also track cellular transmissions and help law enforcement officers pinpoint distracted drivers.
The new text-tracking guns are still in development, but a vendor of law enforcement equipment is putting the final touches on the devices. ComSonics, of Harrisonburg, Va., founded its business in the cable TV industry before expanding into the business of radar and lidar calibration.
ComSonics' new device can discern between the radio frequencies of text, voice and data transmissions emitted from mobile devices, according to a report from the Virginian-Pilot. The tech behind the text tracker was born from the company's cable TV background, as field technicians use frequency trackers to locate shorts in cabling, according to Malcolm McIntyre of ComSonics.
Despite the text tracker's inability to decrypt cellular transmissions, McIntyre said the device still has some privacy issues to overcome. The gun, still not on the production line, also requires backing from both legislators and law enforcement agencies, and adoption by police agencies.
Right now, 44 states have laws on the books that forbid texting while driving, according to reports from the Governors Highway Safety Administration. School bus drivers are banned in over 20 states from using mobile devices in any way when operating buses.
Individuals 18 or younger, known to give into the urge to respond to texts, have been banned from using cell phones while driving in 38 states and the District of Columbia.
According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, roughly 69 percent of respondents reported using their cell phones while driving within 30 days.
"Everyone, of every age and generation, has the ability to make a decision to drive distraction-free," said Linda C. Degutis, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "It's especially risky for young, inexperienced drivers who are already extremely vulnerable to crashes to be distracted when they are behind the wheel. Answering a call or reading a text is never worth a loss of life."
While the focus is often on stopping drivers from texting while operating a motor vehicle, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns that distracted driving encompasses more than reading or composing text messages. The NHTSA includes in its definition of distracted driving the acts of texting, eating, drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, manipulating navigation systems, watching videos and adjusting stereos.
"The cell phone can be a fatal distraction for those who use it while they drive," said CDC Director Tom Frieden. "Driving and dialing or texting don't mix. If you are driving, pull over to a safe place and stop before you use your cell phone."