By Bill Parry
The New York State Senate passed legislation that would crack down on all drivers who kill or seriously injure others while driving with revoked, suspended or otherwise invalid licenses. The bill, introduced by state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) following the tragic death of a Woodside schoolboy, would make such an incident a felony and is included in Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero agenda.
“I am glad the Senate passed my proposal to get tough on dangerous drivers,” Gianaris said. “We must crack down on drivers who should not be on the road before the next tragedy occurs, not after.”
Noshat Nahian was 8-years-old when he was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer, driven by an allegedly unlicensed operator, as he was trying to cross Northern Boulevard. The boy was on his way to class at PS 152 on Dec. 20, 2014.
De Blasio came to the school less than a month later to unveil his Vision Zero initiative. Gianaris renewed his call for these measures after Angela Hurtado was killed by a driver with a suspended license in Maspeth in January 2014. Most recently, Gianaris implored his fellow state legislators to pass his bill after a pedestrian was killed by such a driver on Woodside Avenue in February.
“Too many families have grieved at too many vigils, and too many pedestrians have died because of these bad drivers,” Gianaris said. “I urge the Assembly and Gov. Cuomo to follow suit and enact my proposal into law immediately.”
Unlicensed drivers are among the most dangerous, twice as likely to cause a fatal crash, according to Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “This legislation sends a powerful message that New Yorkers will no longer allow unlicensed drivers to wield the deadly weapon of an automobile on our streets,” he said.
Cristina Furlong, co-founder of the safe streets advocacy group Make Queens Safer, said, “This important bill is about accountability for unlicensed and chronically reckless drivers who injure or kill people. We hope that the risk of steep consequences deters these dangerous drivers from getting behind the wheel in the first place.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr