Bill expanding driver’s education passes State Senate

State Senator Andrew Gounardes was joined by PS 185 students and the family of Jose Contla to announce a package of street safety legislation last month.
Photo by Jessica Parks

Legislation which would bring pedestrian and cyclist safety into driver’s education passed in the State Senate today.

If enacted into law, the bill would require driver’s license applicants to learn about the dangers posed to cyclists and pedestrians during driver’s education courses. The applicants would then be tested on their pedestrian and bicycle safety knowledge in the pre-licensing test administered by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The bill, which aims to “create a thoughtful road culture,” comes at a particularly dangerous time for pedestrians and cyclists. In 2019, motorists killed 124 pedestrians and 28 cyclists and at least 24 pedestrians have been killed by drivers on New York City streets since the New Year. Just last week, a 66-year-old man was struck and killed by a motorist while walking his dog in Bay Ridge.

“The vast majority of these fatal accidents are due to reckless or inattentive driving,” said State Senator Andrew Gounardes, who introduced the bill last April. “We have to change the culture that allows drivers to believe they own the road, starting with robust street safety education when a teenager gets their permit.”

The southern Brooklyn lawmaker renewed calls to pass the bill last month when he introduced a package of other street safety legislation. That set of bills would institute a safety rating for vehicles based on its risk to pedestrians, eliminate the need for district attorneys to prove that motorists were aware of the potential harm they could cause by reckless driving, and classify all intersections as a crosswalk, forcing motorists to yield to crossing pedestrians at every city intersection.

Sunset Park Assemblymen Felix Ortiz is sponsoring the bill to expand driver’s education in the Assembly. Driving schools and the DMV would have six months from the bills passage in both the Senate and the Assembly to implement the new curriculum.