Stronger Penalties Proposed For Work Zone Violators
New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan last Wednesday joined with state Senator Diane Savino and Assemblymember Michael Cusick to announce efforts to strengthen state laws protecting crews in active work zones, marking the 10th annual National Work Zone Awareness Week.
During National Work Zone Awareness Week, cities and states across the country are promoting the importance of safe driving around work zones to help decrease the more than 1,000 work zone fatalities that occur annually. The officials, joined by City Councilmembers Vincent Ignizio and Kenneth Mitchell, stood with a DOT roadway repair and maintenance crew at the site of a paving project along Copley and Fraser Streets in the New Springville section of Staten Island.
"The men and women who build and secure our city's infrastructure should be protected the same way that they would be in any other workplace," Sadik-Khan said. "This legislation is a priority for this administration to make our roads safer, not only for those who walk, cycle and drive on, but also for those who actually work on them."
"Right here in Staten Island, Assistant City Highway Repairman Nicholas Antico lost his life when a driver recklessly entered a closed off work zone, killing him and injuring two other workers," Savino said. "The men and women who get up early every day, strap on their boots and head off to repair or maintain our roads make our city run. They should not have to worry about risking their lives because of careless or irresponsible drivers. This bill will establish tough new penalties for injuring or killing a construction worker as well as prevent accidents by criminalizing the intrusion of a work zone."
"Unfortunately, we have seen too many instances where someone's reckless behavior has injured or even killed road construction workers," Cusick noted. "Hopefully by creating more severe penalties for such acts of carelessness, this bill will reduce these tragic occurrences."
In 2007, 11 people were killed in work zones in New York state, and nearly 15 percent of work zone fatalities nationally that year were workers on active roadway construction projects. More than 40,000 people each year are injured as a result of accidents in work zones.
The legislation, which was reintroduced last week in the Assembly and senate by Cusick and Savino, would strengthen the state's penal code and vehicle and traffic laws to create the crimes of vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter in the first and second degrees in active work zones throughout the state. Additionally, under the proposed legislation, the new crime of intrusion into an active work zone would also be created, subjecting offenders to a $250 - $500 fine and/or a maximum sentence of three months imprisonment. The legislation has now been referred to the Codes Committee in each house.
This legislation is part of an overall package of administration transportation bills before Albany. Another related bill would amend the vehicle and traffic law to increase penalties for leaving the scene of an incident without stopping or reporting what occurred. Increasing penalties carrying longer prison sentences will deter drivers from leaving injured victims at the scene, facilitate police investigations and permit chemical testing of drivers where needed.
National Work Zone Awareness Week is particularly important to NYCDOT since 2005 when Assistant Highway City Repairman Nicholas ("Nicky") Antico was fatally struck by a drunk motorist who drove through a closed work zone during a Staten Island paving project. Antico's memory is an inspiration in the administration's efforts to pass increased work zone legislation. The city's efforts reflect a nationwide trend to enact stronger penalties for drivers who injure or kill construction workers.
DOT also marked Work Zone Awareness Week by distributing work-zone orange bumper magnets and by having DOT staff across the City hand out informational bookmarks to commuters at key transit hubs. DOT personnel were to be at the Whitehall Ferry terminal on Thursday, April 9 between 3:30 and 6 p.m. publicizing National Work Zone Awareness and promoting driver awareness. Radio ads cautioning drivers to be aware of work crews could also be heard in the New York market during the week.
National Work Zone Awareness Week was featured on www.nyc.gov/dot and also on the home page of the city Web site, www.nyc.gov. New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) also scrolled electronic messages promoting work zone safety at all 12 NYC DMV locations.