Nassau County District Attorney-Turned-Lawmaker Kathleen Rice Is Going Hard After Drunk Driving And Distracted Driving

CARLE PLACE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Can deadly habits behind the wheel be changed by technology?

That’s the aim behind a package of bills before Congress that could stop drunk drivers before they can even start a car, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Thursday.

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As district attorney of Nassau County, she prosecuted drivers in avoidable tragedies.

Rep. Kathleen Rice (credit: CBS2)

Now, Rep. Kathleen Rice wants to mandate a change to cars that could conceivably end drunk driving.

Her bill says within ten years, all new cars sold in the U.S. must detect a driver’s blood-alcohol content. She said the fingertip or breath technology is within reach and worth the price.

“You tell me if people didn’t think it was worth paying a little extra for a car to have a seat belt in it, or an airbag. These are technologies that save lives,” Rep. Rice said Thursday.

It’s too late to save Boy Scout Andrew McMorris’ life. He was killed by an alleged drunk driver eight months ago, but his mother said she’s fighting to save 29 lives every day.

“Imagine if we grounded all alcohol-impaired drivers the way we did the 737 max planes. How quickly would culture change,” Alisa McMorris said.

The technology is currently being studied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and leading car makers.

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Long Islanders Gusoff spoke to seemed to agree with Rice’s proposal.

“I think it’s a good idea. It stops intoxicated people from getting in the car and driving home,” one person said.

“I believe it’s a violation of our right to privacy, however I agree with the idea behind it,” another said.

“How many people have to die before something is done?” another person asked.

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Rice’s bill also addresses another killer — distracted driving. Think of how many times you’ve seen someone texting behind the wheel.

“Clearly, not enough people are getting the message, that this is not acceptable and there is absolutely no excuse,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.

Perhaps a better message is needed. Rice’s bill would allocate $5 million for national education on distracted driving. She is seeking bipartisan support.

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A third bill would make New York’s “Leandra’s Law” a national law, making it criminal to drive drunk with a child passenger.