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Edward Mangano unveils plan to combat distracted driving

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano holds a device

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano holds a device called Driver ID as he stands with Robert Piazza, assistant director of the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, in Mineola on June 6, 2016. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Motorists guilty of texting while driving can avoid points on their license by curbing their future use of electronic devices behind the wheel, under a new program Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano announced Monday.

“Texting while driving jeopardizes the lives and safety of innocent people,” Mangano said in a statement. “With mounting technologies, distracted driving has become even more prevalent and this educational pilot program seeks to change driver behavior.”

Under current law, motorists convicted of using a mobile phone or portable electronic device while driving receive five points on their license.

The new county program, launched Monday, affords drivers a chance to modify their behavior instead: Violators will plead guilty to a lesser charge, get four points on their license, pay a $283 fee and waive their right to appeal.

Their court case will be adjourned for approximately 120 days.

Within 10 days of the adjournment, Mangano’s office said, drivers must register with the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency and pay for a $125 device to be installed in their vehicle to prevent the unlawful use of any electronics by the motorist.

The device also will generate a report to be presented on the adjourned court date.

If the report is deemed satisfactory by the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, the plea will be reduced to a plea of guilty to Vehicle and Traffic Law 1202(b) — and no points will be issued.

The $283 fine previously imposed remains the same, Mangano’s office said.

If the report is not submitted, or if it’s unsatisfactory, four points will appear on the motorist’s license and they would not be eligible for the program again. Drivers would get four — not five — points for attempting the program, even if they did not complete it properly.

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said that while state laws determine the number of points, local officials have discretion on the actual charge.

Mangano said now is the time to change driver behavior: The National Highway Safety Administration has reported that since 2012, distracted driving was the cause of 18 percent of all fatal crashes and that a motorist using an electronic device is 23 times more likely to be in crash than a non-distracted driver.

The Nassau County Traffic Safety Board reports an uptick in accidents related to texting: They rose from 87 in 2014 to 112 in 2015, he said.

Approximately 8,000 violations were issued in Nassau last year for distracted driving, Mangano’s office reported.

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