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Nabes tell novice drivers get off Whitestone roads

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But the humor of it has been lost on a few Whitestone residents who claim they see novice drivers tearing up their neighborhoods all too often.

After suffering her third broken fence, Whitestone resident Carol Fratianni enlisted the help of City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in cracking down on the numerous driving schools that offer on-the-road training in her quiet neighborhood.

"What concerns me is that some of these students seem to be very inexperienced and yet are put on the street," Avella said. "Some parents said they are scared to death of having their kids playing in the front yard."

Efforts to find Queens driving schools that take their customers to Whitestone for training were unavailing.

Avella, who is also a resident of Whitestone, held a protest Friday at 24-44 160th St., where Fratianni lives, with several residents who also contend their normally peaceful streets were being unfairly exploited for driving lessons.

"This is a longstanding issue," he said. "I've never seen this problem anywhere else."

According to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, it is recommended - not required - that permitted drivers spend 30 hours on the road, including 10 in medium- to high-volume traffic, prior to taking the driving section of the license test.

Avella said driving schools based in downtown Flushing were the most frequent offenders of this problem, as far as he could tell. He could not specify which schools he saw driving in the neighborhood most often - only that there were a lot of them.

"It has become a quality-of-life issue. You can rarely go one block without running into one more of these driving schools," he said in a statement.

Fratianni, whose property has been damaged by driving school students on multiple occasions, said she has tracked about 25 school vehicles passing her house each day.

She did not return calls for comment.

Avella said there are no state regulations on the number of driving schools allowable by law or where they can offer behind-the-wheel training. Existing state legislation requires driving schools to properly identify their vehicles and also have dual breaking systems for both the student driver and the passenger-side teacher.

"I'd like to see some sort of regulations that (driving schools) all can't impact one area."

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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