N.Y. Gov. Signs Work Zone Safety Act of 2005

July 15, 2005

New York Gov. George Pataki has signed legislation into law that will reportedly promote safety in New York’s highway and bridge work zones and increase penalties for those convicted of speeding within them.

“Improving the mobility and reliability of our roadways for New York’s motorists is a dangerous job,” Gov. 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.”

The Work Zone Safety Act of 2005 comes on the heels of one of the worst work zone accidents in New York State history. On May 20, 2005 highway 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 when 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 Company of Cortland.

Designed to enhance driver education, increase the accountability of drivers and create a more sensible work zone in which to travel, the Work Zone Safety Act of 2005 is a key step towards increasing motorist and worker safety in highway work zones.

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 driver’s 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 DOT 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.

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 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 www.travelinfony.com, enabling New Yorker’s 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 were 485 intrusions into Department of Transportation work zones. Intrusions occur when vehicles enter the closed portion of a marked work zone.

The legislation will take effect in 180 days.

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