A call for change

A new petition calling for New York state to impose stricter driver’s license requirements and frequent renewals for senior drivers has picked up steam, collecting more than 10,000 signatures after the death of a Flushing teenager who was struck and killed by an elderly driver in June while crossing a street in Whitestone.

The petition was started by a Whitestone resident whose wife witnessed a police officer trying to revive 17-year-old Madeline Sershen in the crosswalk and demands more regular testing for elderly drivers, who currently have to renew their driver’s license every eight years, according to the DMV.

The man who started the petition, Julian Ho, is urging the state to shorten the renewal cycle and add a memory or reaction test for drivers over 80 years old to prove they can “continue to remain safely on the road.”

Whether or not this will lead to change remains to be seen. New York City has already implemented measures to prevent pedestrian fatalities on the road with the Vision Zero program. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Vision Zero was responsible for a drop in traffic fatalities to an all-time low, with only 81 recorded deaths in the first six months of 2018.

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) has been an active sponsor of legislation to extend the speed camera program in school zones. But lawmakers in Albany failed to renew the five-year-old program before the legislation session ended June 20, which goes to show that there’s still work to be done.

But will enforcing stricter driver’s license requirements for senior drivers help further lessen the number of traffic fatalities in Queens and throughout the city? Probably. Though it’s impossible to completely eliminate traffic fatalities, ensuring that there are safe drivers on the road is a step in the right direction.

This would not be a witch hunt to take away seniors’ driver’s licenses, but rather a way to make sure that they are fit to drive. Having frequent tests to renew licenses would allow drivers to earn the right to keep their licenses. And this should not apply to just seniors. All drivers should be required to take tests to keep their licenses. It may be a hassle for some, but if a new, tougher policy helps save lives, it would be well worth it.

Ho, and members of Sershen’s family, hope the petition will gain some momentum and lead to change, so Madeline’s untimely death was not in vain.

“There’s nothing we can do to bring Maddie back, but if we can save this from happening to someone else, then for us it’s a victory,” said Rita Barravecchio, Sershen’s aunt.

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