City, State DOTs Ask Albany to Help Keep Road Workers Safe

4535710122_c91f051f6a.jpgNYCDOT workers at Monday’s memorial dedication. Photo: nycstreets/Flickr

On Monday DOT marked National Work Zone Awareness Week with a new PR campaign and a call for state legislators to adopt penalties for drivers who endanger road workers — and, ergo, city pedestrians and cyclists.

There were 720 work zone fatalities
nationwide in 2008, 80 percent of them motorists. Work zone crashes injure more
than 40,000 people across the U.S. annually. At an event in Battery Park yesterday,
Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, along with Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez and state DOT Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee, dedicated a memorial and unveiled a series of print and radio ads featuring New Yorkers who have lost relatives and friends in work zone crashes.

Six NYCDOT workers have been killed in work zones in the last 20 years, with 40 injured since 1995. Most recently, on April 8, a NYCDOT employee was hurt by a hit-and-run driver in Chelsea. Fortunately his injuries were not life-threatening.

Officials also urged Albany to make it a crime for drivers to enter work zones — incredibly, it’s currently not against the law. Bills sponsored by state Senator Diane
and Assembly Member Michael Cusick, both of Staten Island, would make
intrusion into an active work zone subject to a fine of up to $500 and/or a three month stint in jail. The legislation would make it possible to bring charges of vehicular
assault and vehicular manslaughter in the first and second degrees for crashes in
active work zones.

"It’s my hope that my legislation will make
accidents like this a thing of the past by creating more severe
penalties for this type of inexcusable carelessness,"
said Cusick.

New Yorkers, of course, walk and bike around city work zones all the time, so these bills are very much about safety on local streets. Ideally progress in road worker safety would explicitly be considered part and parcel of protecting all vulnerable road users, as proposed by Hayley and Diego’s Law. Another sorely-needed macro-level measure, at least when it comes to city traffic: slowing drivers down whether traveling through construction zones or not.

You can find "Work Zones Need Our Undivided Attention" campaign materials here. A print ad appears after the jump.