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Reckless Drivers Spark Fear Among Stroller-Pushing Moms

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | November 11, 2014 10:58am
 Mothers from Kew Gardens, Forest Hills and Rego Park say that drivers in the area often don't pay enough attention to pedestrians.
Reckless Drivers Create Fear Among Queens Mothers
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QUEENS — Dozens of complaints have been made about reckless drivers in Kew Gardens and Forest Hills this year, and parents say they're increasingly fearful to cross the streets with strollers.

A group of several mothers from Central Queens, an area with a growing population of young families with children, said crossing the street with kids can be a terrifying experience, especially along Queens Boulevard and Kew Gardens Road.

“I’m so afraid that somebody is going to come speeding and hit the baby as I’m crossing the street,” said Betty Kelleher, 44, of Kew Gardens, the mother of a 10-month-old girl.

On a recent Wednesday, a driver blew through a stop sign as she was crossing Kew Gardens Road and 80th Road with her child, nearly hitting her. “Even if they see me, they may not see the stroller,” she said.

According to data provided by the Department of Transportation, two pedestrians were injured at that intersection between 2008 and 2012.

A taxi stand and a bus stop are located near the corner, which residents said creates extra congestion, and some motorists pass other vehicles by switching into oncoming traffic.

Michael Cohen, a spokesman for Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, said reckless drivers are a big problem in the neighborhood. In this year alone, he said, the office received about 75 complaints from residents being concerned “either with lack of observance by motorists or the need for enforcement or the need for new or modified traffic restrictions.”

One of the most dangerous spots is Queens Boulevard at the intersection with 71st/Continental Avenue, where two pedestrians were killed in the past two years. Some 28 pedestrians were injured there between 2008 and 2012, according to the DOT.

“We cannot run [with strollers], we cannot change the direction easily, so I feel really scared to go across the street, especially Queens Boulevard," said Kana Kamitsubo, 36, the owner of a Forest Hills music school for children and mother of a 10-month-old boy.

Koslowitz's office has also received a number of complaints about Queens Boulevard at Yellowstone Boulevard. According to the DOT, 12 pedestrians have been injured there between 2008 and 2012.

Jessica Keane, 36, of Forest Hills, the mother of a 9-month-old boy, said she is always trying to avoid that corner.

“Drivers are trying to get around each other and they are not paying attention to the people who are crossing,” she said.

The intersection of Kew Gardens Road and 83rd Avenue, near P.S. 99, is also very congested and dangerous, Kelleher said. Two pedestrians were injured there as well between 2008 and 2012, the DOT said.

It was not clear how that compared to other intersections around the city.

Peter Beadle, a member of Transportation Alternatives Queens Activist Committee, which advocates for implementing more safety measures along Queens Boulevard, said that he witnessed numerous incidents in which drivers cut off pedestrians who walked slower than others, including parents with strollers or the elderly.

“They see a mom with a stroller at an intersection and they don’t want to be slowed down,” said Beadle, who is also a member of the Community Board 6 Transportation Committee. “It’s this mentality, 'oh no, they are slower than I am, I can’t let them get ahead of me,' and that causes them to be aggressive and intimidate people at the intersection.”

Beadle also said he believes that the newly implemented 25 mph speed limit and other measures undertaken as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries in the city, “should help change the culture.”

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said in a statement that "safety on Queens Boulevard is a priority" for the agency.

The DOT has implemented numerous safety improvements along the 7-mile stretch over the last 10 years, including widening medians and sidewalks, modifying signal timing and installing pedestrian fencing, the spokesman noted.

The efforts, the agency said, "have brought a dramatic decrease in pedestrian injuries and fatalities."

According to the DOT, more than 70 pedestrians were killed in accidents along the so-called "Boulevard of Death" from 1993 to 2001. In 1997 alone, 18 pedestrians were killed there, according to statistics provided by the DOT.

But in 2011, no pedestrian was killed on Queens Boulevard. In 2012, two people lost their lives, the agency said.