Drivers should get stiffer penalties for texting behind the wheel in school zones, Queens senator says

distracted driving in a school zone
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One Queens lawmaker is looking to make school zones safer by cracking down on distracted drivers.

Senator Tony Avella announced on Thursday that he will soon introduce legislation in Albany to increase penalties against drivers caught texting or talking on the cellphone while behind the wheel on streets near schools.

Avella cited a recent study published by Zendrive which found that Queens was among three counties in New York State to be the worst for distracted driving in school zones. Schools zones in Queens that had the highest rates of distracted drivers within the senator’s district include P.S. 79 and Holy Trinity School in Whitestone, P.S. 131 in Jamaica, and Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School in Oakland Gardens.

State law prohibits drivers from using handheld cellphones while operating a motor vehicle, but Avella noted that there are no provisions for penalties against those drivers who break the law in school zones, where children and parents face an increased risk of being involved in a vehicular accident.

“My new legislation would seek to penalize drivers who are reckless enough to break the law and put our kids in danger. Driving while texting, playing games, or being consumed in your phone in anyway is already one of the most careless and dangerous things you can do but doing so near a school is exceptionally troubling,” said Avella. “Parents should not have to worry every day that their child might not make it home because a driver couldn’t wait a couple of minutes before checking their notifications.”

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