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Texting while driving is target of Nassau DA's 5-point plan

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice outside the

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice outside the Nassau County Court in Mineola on June 6, 2014. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said Monday her office will begin mandating cellphone monitoring devices in some texting-while-driving cases prosecuted by her office.

Rice urged County Executive Ed Mangano and local magistrates to mandate the disabling devices in any case involving a texting violation, which are typically handled by village justices and the county's Traffic and Parking Violations Agency.

The device will be required for drivers who plead guilty in criminal court. Rice's office has brought charges in 82 texting-while-driving cases.

Violators will pay the cost of the devices, which attach to the phone and prevent it from working while the vehicle is in motion, Rice said.

Brian Nevin, a spokesman for Mangano, said the number of texting-while-driving citations in Nassau annually was not available.

Rice said she held the news conference a day before the expected release of Apple's iPhone 6 to draw attention to the issue, which she called "a menace on the roads."

Rice said she wrote to the heads Apple, Google, Microsoft and BlackBerry -- urging them to incorporate so-called "kill switch" technology into phones' operating systems to prevent texting while driving.

Rice has also asked Nassau Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter to step-up enforcement efforts aimed at targeting texting-while-driving offenders. She contacted insurance industry associations asking them to urge auto insurance providers to give discounted rates to policyholders who use devices or apps that block texting while driving.

Neither Mangano nor Krumpter responded to messages seeking comment through their spokesmen. Nevin emailed a statement he said was from Judge John Marks, the executive director of the Traffic and Parking Violations Agency saying he looked "forward to working with the District Attorney to make our roads safer. Motorists who plead guilty to texting while driving receive points on their license in this court."

Rice said the plan draws from studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other organizations that show driving while texting makes it 23 times more likely that the driver will crash and six times more likely to cause an accident than driving while intoxicated.

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