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Following Traffic Death of Flushing Teenager, Thousands Calls For Stricter Requirements For Senior Drivers

Photo: Julian Ho

July 2, 2018 By Christian Murray

Thousands of Queens residents have signed an online petition calling on the governor and state legislature to change the licensing requirements for older motorists.

The petition follows the death of Madeline Shershen, 17, who was killed by an 88-year-old driver while  crossing Utopia Parkway– in the marked crosswalk– on Monday, June 25.

Shershen, a Flushing resident, had the walk light but was hit by Sheila Kahn Prager, 88, who failed to stop for the light at the intersection of Utopia Parkway and 16th Avenue. The octogenarian was charged with three crimes, including disobeying a traffic control device.

The petition is calling on New York State to implement specific requirements for drivers over the age of 80 as a means to increase road safety.  It calls for mandatory retesting every two years for all drivers age 80 and over. Nearly 7,500 have signed the petition since it was launched June 30.

Currently, in New York state, a license only needs to be renewed every 8 years with no specific requirements for older individuals.

“Simply passing a vision exam is an extremely low standard for a person to maintain their privilege to drive,” reads the petition. “A person’s memory (i.e. individuals suffering from dementia) and reaction time must also be assessed during the license renewal process.”

The petition says that “Maddie’s death could have been prevented. Unlike many other states, New York state does not have specific provisions for older drivers.”

Some states require seniors to renew their license in person and/or provide a doctor’s certificate stating they are medically fit to drive. Other states, such as Indiana, require drivers over 75 years to renew their license every three years compared with every four years for younger drivers. At age 85, drivers in Indiana must begin renewing their license every two years.

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michelle csatari

I think this a great idea. I signed the petition . I work at PS 209 right on the corner where this horrible accident happened. I cannot explain coming outside for lunch at 10:45am soon after this happened. To see the car with its broken windshield, her handbag and shoe in the street and the other shoe on the sidewalk and the blood . I cannot ever forget what I saw. Everyone around felt her death. Everyone lost the happy feeling of the last day of school. It didn’t mean anything anymore. A beautiful young girl who has so much potential. I think about her often. I will sign anything that could help someone else. I also think instead of the red light cameras they should add speed bumps around schools. The red light cameras don’ t work as good as the speed bumps would.


Most of the people driving are not senior citizens and they are totally reckless, rude and irresponsible. I have never seen it so bad. If I give up driving it won’t be because I am too old but because I fear for my life on the roads nowadays.


Retesting “every two years”? Too infrequent. Mental status and physical capability to safely operate a motor vehicle can change rapidly in a period of months or even weeks. NYS MD’s should know which of their patients hold NYS Driver’s Licenses. If a patient’s mental/physical status deteriorates to where the patient will be an at risk driver, the doctor should be obligated to notify the state, just as in the case of child abuse. The minimum should be an MD certification/validation of a driver’s ability to safely drive at age 70 or over annually. This is from a driver who is reached 70+.


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