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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New York: Keep Road Workers Safe

April 19, 2010 marked the beginning of National Work Zone Awareness Week. It was also the day the New York Department of Transportation (DOT) launched a new PR campaign and a push for state legislators to implement penalties for drivers who jeopardize road worker's safety.

Nationwide, 720 work zone fatalities were reported in 2008. Motorists accounted for 80 percent of the deaths. While 720 people may not seem like a lot, over 40,000 people are injured in work zone accident each year. In the last 20 years, six employees of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) have been killed in work zones. Since 1995, 40 NYCDOT employees have been injured. The most recent injury occurred April 8 in Chelsea when an NYCDOT employee was struck in a hit-and-run. The road worker's injuries were not life-threatening in this case.

At an event held in Batter Park April 19, the NYCDOT Commissioner, the Federal Highway Administrator, and the state DOT Acting Commissioner dedicated a memorial to the road worker's who have lost their lives in work related accidents. They also unveiled the print and radio ads that are part of the new PR campaign. The ads feature New Yorkers who have lost loved ones in work zone crashes. One black and white ad features the picture of a road worker's widow with the text, "My husband left early for work one night. A speeding driver crashed through his work zone and Nicky never came home."

This may come as a surprise, there is no current law against driver's entering a work zone. Officials are urging Albany legislatures to change this. Two legislators from Staten Island, state Senator Diane Savino and Assembly Member Michael Cusick are sponsoring bills that would make driving into an active work zone a punishable offense. The current bill proposes that those convicted would be subject to up to a $500 fine and/or up to three months behind bars. If passed, the legislation would make it possible to charge drivers with vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter in the first and second degree for crashes that occur in active work zones. Cusick said, he hopes the legislation, "Will make accidents like this a thing of the past by creating more severe penalties for this type of inexcusable carelessness."

New Yorkers walk and bike around active work zones everyday. So, these laws are also about making local streets a safer place. If someone drives through an active work zone they can just as easily strike a bystander as they could a road worker. Since it helps protect all road users any progress in road worker safety laws will be considered progress in what was proposed by the Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez Law.

The Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez Law is named for two preschoolers killed in January 2009. The children were struck by an unattended van that was left idling in Chinatown. This law proposes the creation a careless driving offense. The offense would carry penalties of up to a $750 fine and up to 15 days in jail. Anyone who injures a vulnerable street user would be charged with careless driving. The purpose of the careless driving offense is to create an offense to be used when vehicular homicide and vehicular manslaughter cannot be used.

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Posted by NSC - Traffic Safety at 1 Comments


Anonymous Kevin said...

This is just right --- we aren't only supposed to be careful when driving in school zones, or work zones --- but any kind of zone. Keep safe, people!

May 12, 2010 at 7:32 AM 

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