On the heels of one of the worst work zone accidents in New York state history, New York Gov. George Pataki has signed legislation into law that will promote safety in New York's highway and bridge work zones and stiffen penalties for those convicted of speeding within them.
The Work Zone Safety Act of 2005 was signed into law less than 2 months after a May 20 accident in which workers Jonathon Randall, 32, and Wayne Bonsell, 39, both of Binghamton, and Jason Pessoni, 30, of Cincinnatus, were killed in a work zone on Interstate 81 in the town of Chenango, N.Y. A charter bus, reportedly speeding, struck a tractor trailer and started a chain reaction leading to the deaths. The three men were employees of Economy Paving Co. of Cortland, N.Y.
The Work Zone Safety Act of 2005 is designed to enhance driver education, increase the accountability of drivers and create a more sensible work zone in which to travel.
Key provisions of the legislation will:
- Increase police presence in work zones to enforce posted speed reductions.
- Increase deployment of radar speed display signs in work zones to provide visible reminders of motorist speed.
- Impose a 60-day suspension of drivers' licenses when a person is convicted of two or more work zone speeding violations, in addition to the double minimum fine for speeding in work zones that exists under current law.
- Impose a $50 surcharge for speeding in work zones, with the proceeds devoted to a newly established Highway Construction and Maintenance Safety Education Fund.
- Direct the commissioner of the state Department of Transportation to work with the State Police, the DMV commissioner, the Thruway Authority chairman, local law enforcement agencies and contractors to develop rules and regulations to increase safety at work zones.
"Improving the mobility and reliability of our roadways for New York's motorists is a dangerous job," Pataki said. "It's important that we do everything we can to not only ensure New York's roads and bridges are safe for travel but also that they are safe for those who work on them. With this legislation, we are enacting tough new measures to encourage motorists to pay attention and slow down as they approach work zones, improving safety for themselves and highway workers alike."
Act Builds on Existing Safety Efforts
The Work Zone Safety Act of 2005 builds upon existing measures taken by New York's transportation and law enforcement agencies, such as the State Department of Transportation, State Thruway Authority and State Police to promote safe driving through work zones on highways and bridges.
These measures include the use of technologies such as electronic highway message signs to give advanced warning of work zones, highly-reflective orange work zone signs to improve visibility, rumble strips to alert motorists to road conditions, highway advisory radio frequencies that broadcast work zone information and real-time construction information at http://www.travelinfony.com, enabling New Yorkers to pinpoint the location of work zones they may encounter before they travel.
New York's transportation agencies also work closely with the New York State Police on initiatives such as Operation Hard Hat, a program in which state troopers inconspicuously placed within work zones record speeds of vehicles and radio descriptions of violators to teammates in marked chase cars. During the 2004 Operation Hard Hat campaign, State Police issued 1,648 tickets statewide for speeding in and around work zones.
Although work zone accident fatalities are rare, a total of 467 traffic crashes were reported in New York state Department of Transportation work zones in 2004, with seven crashes resulting in fatalities. Since 1995, there have been 485 intrusions into Department of Transportation work zones. Intrusions occur when vehicles enter the closed portion of a marked work zone.
"Every day construction workers in highway work zones put their lives in the hands of motorists," New York Assemblywoman Donna A. Lupardo said. "Too many of them lose their lives in careless accidents. This law will save lives and improve the working conditions of construction workers by reminding drivers to exercise caution."