New York’s evolving texting-while-driving laws and other initiatives to combat texting from behind the wheel will save lives, but more can be done to make roads safer, according to a letter Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice sent the governor.
Rice’s letter, dated Oct. 2, calls on the state to: make its texting-while-driving laws even more stringent, reform vehicular assault statutes and allow law enforcement to obtain cell phone information from drivers involved in fatal crashes.
And she thinks Nassau should be the one leading the charge.
“We have an opportunity in New York to become a model for how to address this growing national problem,” Rice writes in her letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “I am more than willing to offer my jurisdiction for a new anti-texting-while-driving pilot and educational efforts that, if successful, can be replicated across the state and country.”
Cuomo has taken steps this year to stiffen texting-while-driving penalties. He recently signed legislation that increases penalties from three to five points and imposes a 60-day suspension of junior licenses upon conviction.
The governor last month also unveiled a “texting zones” plan that will create 91 designated texting pull-off areas along the New York State Thruway and other state highways. Two of those zones will be on the Long Island Expressway between Exits 51 and 52 at an already existing rest stop. The signs should be up this month, an official said.
In her letter, Rice applauded Cuomo for his efforts, but identified one major loophole that allows drivers to text while stopped at a red light. She said it “undermines our efforts to instill an awareness in drivers that at no time is it safe to text while operating a motor vehicle.”
On reforming current vehicular assault statutes, Rice said: “Without this important change, prosecutors and the courts must attempt to apply reckless and negligence-based charges to these instances,” adding that without it the legal system could fall short.
She also noted that authorities should enact uniform policies statewide for obtaining cell phone information from drivers involved in deadly accidents, adding that Cuomo “could play a valuable role in improving and standardizing how and when this information is collected and utilized by law enforcement.”
Rice has become increasingly more active in statewide affairs with her appointment as the president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York and co-chair of the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.
Read full letter: