By Bill Parry
Members of Make Queens Safer and other advocacy groups joined state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and other elected officials as they unveiled new legislation intended to tackle drivers who speed in school zones to reduce collisions. Under the proposed legislation, announced last week at a Greenwich Village school, drivers convicted of three or more speeding violations in school zones during school days within an 18-month period would lose their licenses for 60 days.
“We have a speeding problem in one of every three schools in the city,” Peralta said. “If passed, this legislation will punish offenders by taking away their drivers’ licenses for 60 days. We have a responsibility to hold reckless drivers accountable for their actions. School zones are slow zone. Period.”
According to the city Department of Transportation, in 2013 at least three in every four drivers exceeded limits within a quarter mile of 100 school buildings surveyed. In addition, at another 306 school zones, between 25 and 75 percent of the drivers exceeded the speed limit.
“With over one million school kids and as many parents, teachers and administrators, there is no better way to educate about traffic safety than in and around our schools,” Make Queens Safer Co-Founder Cristina Furlong said. “Speed camera enforcement has changed behavior and reduced traffic dangers around the schools where they are located. When drivers persist in disregarding the safety of our children, the result could be tragic. We believe that it is fair and just to have this new legislation to act as a deterrent to the dangerous behaviors and rampant speeding that put our kids in harm’s way.”
Last year more than 1,000 schoolchildren under the age of 17 were injured in crashes and nine children were killed, according to Peralta, who noted that when children under the age of 14 are struck by a vehicle traveling 35 miles per hour, they are five times more likely to die than if they were hit be a vehicle traveling 25 miles per hour.
“Undoubtedly, exceeding speed limits a few miles can be the difference between life and death in crashes,” Peralta said. “Everyday more than one million children travel to and from schools in the city so we must ensure that our students are safe at all times.”
The Queens delegation traveled to PS 41 in Manhattan, where a baby sitter and toddler were injured in a 2013 crash in front of the school. Residents have pushed for a slow zone ever since.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr