C RY D E R
P O I N T
Photo by Jenna Bagcal/THE COURIER
Whitestone seeks senior
driving law change
BY JENNA BAGCAL
Hundreds gathered for a rally in Whitestone on July
30 to call for senior driver reform in the wake of Madeline
Sershen’s untimely death.
The family and friends of the 17-year-old student
were joined by elected officials and supporters at the
corner of Utopia Parkway and 16th Avenue, the site of
the June 25 crash, to advocate for changes to better assess
New York’s current driver laws for senior citizens.
Many held signs bearing Sershen’s face with words that
plead for reform.
“Through all the pain, tears and heartache for Maddie’s
death, one thing was abundantly clear: there are
individuals on the road who should not be driving. This
is not age discrimination, it is simply about ability,” said
Rita Barravecchio, Sershen’s aunt.
“We are not gonna stop until change is made. So
DMV, you better watch out,” Barravecchio said.
Last month, Sershen was struck by 88-year-old Sheila
Kahn Prager, who blew through a red light and crashed
into the teen. The teen’s tragic death added to the pattern
of older drivers killing pedestrians, including
9-year-old Giovanni Ampuero who died this past April.
Currently, New York state does not have special
driving provisions for seniors and they are subject to
a standard vision test every eight years. Just 33 states
and Washington, D.C., have special renewal guidelines
in place for seniors.
“I think that’s absolutely insane. When you take a state
like New York, with our population, as big and as great
12 CRYDER POINT COURIER | AUGUST 2018 | WWW.QUEENSCOURIER.COM
as our state is, the only thing that we’re requiring individuals
to do to renew their license is to pass a vision
test that’s right in front of them? Just one line? That’s
insane. There needs to be more,” Barravecchio said.
At the rally, Senator Tony Avella announced his commitment
to advocating for change and new legislation
“I’ve already set up a meeting with the Automobile
Association of America (AAA),” Avella said. “We also
have, in two weeks, a meeting with AARP. They’re the
key to passing legislation in this respect. We are gonna
work together to make sure that we make change, and
when we introduce that legislation, the first thing I’m
gonna do is call it ‘Madeline’s Law.’”
Barravecchio added that at the meetings with AAA and
AARP, they will be asking what the opposition is and what
new ideas the companies have come up with in their research
Congressman Paul Vallone announced that the Department
of Transportation (DOT) agreed to rename
the corner of the crash “Maddie’s Way” in honor of the
17-year-old. The congressman added that the DOT also
promised to redo slow zones and other traffic features
around P.S. 209.
“Everybody has a street or a corner or a block that
they care passionately about, and it’s always around a
school. So we gotta have that promise from DOT to relook
and don’t tell us ‘no’ when we ask for a speed bump
or a slow zone or a flashing sign or a stop sign or any
type of device that will slow down traffic,” Valone said.
Raul Ampuero, the father of Giovanni, emphasized that
politics should be set aside when dealing with this issue.
“What’s wrong with the senators, playing politician
games? What’s the matter with you? And I’m talking
about Senator Flanagan and Senator Golden,” Ampuero
He told QNS that there are several things that need to
be done to increase safety in the streets.
“The first thing we need is support. We need all the
senators, Republican senators, Democratic senators, to
get together,” he said. “Every three, four years for retesting
is not gonna help. We’re asking at least once a
year or once every two years.”
The father also said that the speed camera program
that went dark on July 25 needed to be brought back
“It changes drivers’ behavior, so you know that you
gotta slow down.”
Others like Whitestone resident Julian Ho started a
Change.org petition in support of retesting senior drivers
over the age of 80 every two years.
“I didn’t know Maddie, I didn’t know Maddie’s family.
I’m just a concerned citizen. This is my neighborhood.
We live in Whitestone. We love Whitestone. We wanna
keep this street safe,” said Ho, whose petition has over
21,250 signatures. He added that in his bus route to
work on the Q20, he passes by the sites where Ampuero
and Sershen died.
“This can’t keep happening,” Ho said. “I can’t keep
passing by and seeing bouquets and candles. Something
needs to be done. And it’s fine to rename the street,
but we can’t keep renaming streets of dead children, it
doesn’t make sense. We need to change the law.”
RALLY TO SAVE LIVES