WOODBURY - A pilot program in Nassau County will forgive drivers caught texting while driving if they prove they can change their behavior.
The current penalty includes a hefty fine and five points on the driver's license. Drivers can have their licenses suspended after obtaining 12 points.
The program will add a monitoring device to the driver's car that, when paired with a smartphone app, blocks touchpad use in moving vehicles. If the driver goes 90 days without texting and driving, they will not get the points.
"We need our drivers to be more concerned with oncoming traffic, rather than incoming messages," says Nassau Executive Ed Mangano.
The ticketed person will have to pay a $125 fee to get the device. It gets mounted like an E-ZPass near the rearview mirror and is connected to a smartphone app that disables the phone's keypad while the vehicle is in motion. Drivers would still be able to operate their phones with voice commands to encourage hands-free driving.
Some critics say the plan doesn't go far enough to dissuade distracted driving.
"My concern is that there are no points," says Marge Lee, a safe-driving advocate. "I don't think you should be given a free pass."
Points or not, officials say drivers caught texting will still face the same fines.
In 2015, Nassau County says it issued more than 2,000 violations for texting while driving.