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Queens CB 2 Committee Supports Fixes Where Driver Killed Teen on Sidewalk

5:16 PM EDT on June 14, 2013

On March 11, Tenzin Drudak, 16, was on the sidewalk on Thomson Avenue across from Applied Communications High School, where he went to school, when the driver of a maroon Dodge Caravan careened across three lanes of oncoming traffic, between metal barriers, onto the sidewalk, injuring four and killing Drudak.

The driver, Mohamed Keita, 36, was reportedly distracted by spilt milk as he was speeding through the intersection. Police issued Keita a summons for driving without insurance, but did not file charges.

In the wake of Drudak's death, Queens Community Board 2, LaGuardia Community College, and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called on DOT to make changes to the intersection, which sees lots of foot traffic from nearby schools as well as heavy vehicle congestion caused by drivers using surface streets to and from the toll-free Queensboro Bridge.

In April, DOT adjusted signage and traffic signals at the intersection, adding countdown signals for pedestrians on Thomson Avenue at 30th Street, 30th Place, 31st Street, and 31st Place.

Last month, the agency presented a safety plan [PDF] to CB 2's transportation committee that would prohibit right turns from westbound Thomson Avenue to Skillman Avenue, with the short right-turn ramp blocked by flexible posts or granite blocks. DOT also proposed installing planters in the former turn lane, to be maintained by LaGuardia Community College. The plan would also prohibit left turns from eastbound Thomson Avenue to Skillman Avenue.

The committee approved the plan, with the exception of the left turn ban, in a 6-0 vote. At the committee meeting, DOT said it was looking to implement these changes as quickly as possible [PDF]. However, the plan did not come up for a vote at this month's full board meeting, and CB 2's full board next meets in September.

DOT says it will also study whether to install electronic signage telling drivers how fast they are traveling, and has begun examining other changes for the intersection and surrounding area, including additional turn restrictions and pedestrian improvements. A particular area of concern for DOT is the crosswalk at 30th Street on the south side of Thomson Avenue, which has high pedestrian volumes and significant conflicts with turning drivers. DOT and LaGuardia Community College are also undertaking longer-term studies of traffic safety improvements in the surrounding area.

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