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. Failure to hand over a phone could lead to the suspension of a driver’s license, similar to the consequences for refusing a Breathalyzer.
The proposed legislation faces hurdles to becoming a law, including privacy concerns. But Félix W. Ortiz, a Democratic assemblyman who was a sponsor of the bipartisan Textalyzer bill, said it would not give the police access to the contents of any emails or texts. It would simply give them a way to catch multitasking drivers, he said.
“We need something on the books where people’s behavior can change,” said Mr. Ortiz, who pushed for the state’s 2001 ban on hand-held devices by drivers. If the Textalyzer bill becomes law, he said, “people are going to be more afraid to put their hands on the cellphone.”
If it were to pass in New York, the first state to propose such an idea, it could well spread in the same way that the hands-free rules did after New York adopted them.
Ms. Lightner said the intensifying efforts around distracted driving “are the equivalent of the early ’80s” in drunken driving, when pressure led to tougher laws and campaigns emphasizing corporate responsibility.
Distracted driving “is not being treated as seriously as drunk driving, and it needs to be,” she said.
“It’s dangerous, devastating, crippling, and it’s a killer, and still socially acceptable,” she added.
The safety administration plans to release the final fatality numbers as early as Thursday but previously announced that the numbers appeared to be up sharply.
Jay Winsten, an associate dean and the director of the Center for Health Communication at Harvard’s School of Public Health, said, “We’re losing the battle against distracted driving.”
Dr. Winsten is developing a distracted-driving campaign based on designated-driver efforts that were ultimately backed by major television networks and promoted by presidents, sports leagues and corporations.
He said the new campaign would urge drivers to be more attentive, rather than scold them for multitasking, and would encourage parents to set a better example for their children.
The campaign, though still in development, has already garnered support from YouTube, which has agreed to recruit stars on the website to create original content involving the message. Dr. Winsten said he had also been in talks with AT&T, Nascar, a major automaker and potential Hollywood partners.
Dr. Winsten said the new campaign could be a kind of carrot to encourage better behavior by drivers, but he added that a stick was also needed.
While the Textalyzer raises potential privacy concerns, it might help enforce texting bans that have so far proved ineffective, he said.
“Right now, we have a reed, not a stick,” Dr. Winsten said, adding that the Textalyzer would “make enforcement that much more credible.”
Now, the police can obtain a warrant for cellphone records, but the process takes time and resources, limiting the likelihood of investigation, Mr. Ortiz said. But those protections are there for good reason, according to privacy advocates, who oppose the New York bill.
“It really invites police to seize phones without justification or warrant,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
A unanimous decision by the Supreme Court in 2014 ruled that the police could not search a cellphone without a warrant, even after an arrest, suggesting an uphill fight on the New York legislation.
But the bill’s authors say they have based the Textalyzer concept on the same “implied consent” legal theory that allows the police to use the Breathalyzer: When drivers obtain a license, they are consenting in advance to a Breathalyzer, or else they will risk the suspension of their license.
Matt Slater, the chief of staff for State Senator Terrence Murphy of New York, a Republican and a sponsor of the bill, said the constitutional concerns could and should be solved. “It’s monumental if we can get this done,” he said.
Mr. Slater said he hoped it could happen this session, which ends in June, but, he added, it may take several tries and may require broader public support.
“We’re facing the same hurdles we faced with drunk driving,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure safety and civil liberties are equally protected.”
Fourteen states prohibit the use of hand-held devices by drivers, and 46 ban texting, with penalties ranging from a $25 fine in South Carolina to $200 fines elsewhere, and even points assessed against the driver’s license.
A handful of states have strengthened their original bans, including New York, which in 2014 adopted tougher sanctions that include a 120-day suspension of a permit or a license suspension for drivers under 21, while a second offense calls for a full-year suspension.
Deborah Hersman, the president of the nonprofit National Safety Council and a former chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said she liked the Textalyzer idea because it would give the police an important tool and would help gather statistics on the number of crashes caused by distraction.
She said the Textalyzer-Breathalyzer comparison was apt because looking at and using a phone can be as dangerous as driving drunk.
“Why are we making a distinction between a substance you consume and one that consumes you?” Ms. Hersman said.
The Textalyzer legislation has been called Evan’s Law for Evan Lieberman, who was asleep in the back of a car on June 16, 2011, when the vehicle, driven by a friend, lost control.
Mr. Lieberman, 19, died from his injuries, and his father, Ben Lieberman, spent months trying to gain access to phone records, which ultimately showed that the driver had been texting.
Ben Lieberman became an advocate for driving safety, and in December, looking to develop the Textalyzer concept, he approached the mobile forensics company Cellebrite, which was involved in helping the government find a way into a locked iPhone, and which works with police departments around the country.
Jim Grady, the chief executive of Cellebrite U.S.A., said that the Textalyzer software had not been fully built because it was not clear what a final law might require, but that it would not be too technologically challenging.
“I hope it will have the same effect as the Breathalyzer,” he said.Continue reading the main story
LOS ANGELES — Taking pictures from a car was something you’d be admonished for in New York City. “Try not to get the windshield wipers in the frame,” was a wisecrack transmitted from the photo desk to certain photographers known to nap in their radio cars under the F.D.R. Drive.
But out west, the distances are far greater. On the road or in a place like L.A., the vehicle becomes a constant companion and the windshield and side windows become another viewfinder, another frame.
I grew up in southern California. I rode in cars more than I walked. I sat in the back seat, staring out the window, a passive observer to the world speeding past. I counted the days to my 16th birthday and my driver’s license, a big step towards independence and adulthood.
“To get anywhere in this world, a woman has to learn how to type and drive,” my mother told me. That practical advice has served me well. I spend much of my time behind the wheel now, driving to and from assignments throughout the far reaches of Los Angeles and much of the west. Crowded, jumbled freeways; city streets; and long, lonely highways with big sky and horizons stretching for miles. These are the sideshow to my travels.
In college, I fell in love with photography when I discovered “The World of Henri Cartier-Bresson,” with his quiet and incisive observations, his precise sense of timing and light and his careful (but seemingly random) compositions. His work introduced me to street photography. He made it seem so effortless: both whimsical and graceful, capturing a moment in time, a gesture, a fleeting mood or a passing ray of light.
I would spend hours on the floor of the Cal State Long Beach library, much more compelled to study photo books than sit in a classroom, mesmerized by the streets of Helen Levitt, William Klein, Robert Frank, Roy DeCarava and Gary Winogrand. I was inspired and set out to attempt to do the same as I learned how to use a camera.
In practice, I learned, the skill of street photography is much more complex to develop. It takes years, even a lifetime, to master — shooting frame after frame, wandering, watching, listening, reacting and developing the hand-eye coordination that turns the camera into a natural tool of observation. And street life in L.A. was spacious and lonely compared to the bustle of New York City. Sure, there were plenty of people around, but instead of bumping into them on sidewalks, I was watching them speed by in cars.
When I was offered a three-month tryout at The Daily News in New York, the move seemed like a natural progression. I jumped at the chance. I walked around and explored with a camera, free to develop my eye and my sense of timing and observation in a way that was difficult to do in L.A.
Years later, when I returned to California to work as a national photographer, I found myself back in the car, stopping to capture interesting things I’d see along the way. But often, by the time I’d pull over, park, grab a camera and get out of the car, the moment was gone, or the perspective or even the light had changed.
Just for fun, I began shooting through the windshield on long road trips to break up the monotony of driving. And the old street shooting reflexes began to kick in.
The magic of street photography is capturing scenes and random moments as you see them, photographs that appear as a glance, something that just catches your eye for an instant. In the car, that takes on more of a feeling of transience, moving at high speeds or stopped momentarily at a traffic light.
Going out to shoot on the street takes intention, having your camera in your hand and at the ready as you wander around. The same holds true for the car, a camera sitting on the passenger seat.
A cross-country road trip last year was the ideal opportunity to put this into practice, as I drove through one state a day from coast to coast. And one of my favorite photos was taken at the end of that trip, sitting behind the wheel. In New York City.