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State Highlights 2023 Initatives to Keep Highway Workers Safe

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As construction throughout much of New York State begins to wind down with winter weather setting in, Governor Kathy Hochul today highlighted the year-end results of several initiatives designed to keep highway workers and motorists safe throughout New York State. These include a new work zone speed enforcement pilot program, a partnership between state transportation agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement entities, and a new law designed to better protect motorists in disabled vehicles. According to the Governor’s Office, the legislature worked hard to introduce and pass these essential measures over the last several years, and the initiatives were then implemented with the support and assistance of the state’s partners in organized labor and the contracting industry, whose members also work in dangerous environments for the benefit of all New Yorkers.

“New York has zero tolerance for negligent or aggressive behavior that endangers our men and women in labor who work hard every day to keep us moving,” Governor Hochul said. “Work zone speed limits and other restrictions protect highway workers making our roads safer for everyone, and the actions we have taken this year are proving to be effective.”

Automated Work Zone Speed Monitoring Pilot Program

Speeding through highway work zones endangers workers and other motorists and is a common factor in dangerous work zone intrusions. In April 2023, as construction season was officially kicking off across the state, Governor Hochul announced the launch of an Automated Work Zone Speed Monitoring Pilot Program at 20 sites operated by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and 10 on the New York State Thruway. The Automated Work Zone Speed Monitoring pilot program was established by legislation signed into law by Governor Hochul and is intended to improve speed limit compliance and slow vehicles down in work zones. More information about the pilot program can be found here.

Through November 22, 133,640 notices of liability were issued to motorists across the state, including 95,861 from work zones controlled by the State Department of Transportation and 37,779 from work zones along the New York State Thruway. Both agencies encountered motorists driving at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour through monitored work zones.

Notices of liability by region were distributed as follows:

  • Long Island – 41,709
  • Rochester/Finger Lakes – 32,578
  • New York City – 12,330
  • Albany/Capital Region – 4,616
  • Binghamton/Southern Tier – 1,200
  • Syracuse/Central New York – 1,140
  • Poughkeepsie/Hudson Valley – 1,016
  • Buffalo/Western New York – 849
  • Hornell/Western Southern Tier – 211
  • Watertown/North Country – 113
  • Utica/Mohawk Valley – 99
  • Thruway – 37,779

Fines through the pilot program are issued as follows:

  • $50 for first violation
  • $75 for second violation
  • $100 for third and subsequent violations within 18 months of the first violation

Unpaid fines may result in a vehicle registration hold and drivers will not be able to renew their registrations without first paying their fines. Owners may contest a violation within 30 days of when they receive notice. As required by law, 60 percent of the funds collected by NYSDOT and the Thruway Authority through the program will supplement work zone safety projects.

Of the approximately 4.9 million vehicles that passed an automated work zone vehicle in a NYSDOT work zone during the first six months of the pilot program, less than two percent were issued violations. More than 7,500 or nine percent of all NYSDOT speed violations were repeat offenders.

Of the more than 2.3 million vehicles that passed an automated work zone vehicle in a Thruway work zone during the first six months of the pilot program, launched in May 2023, less than two percent were issued violations. During that period, the average speed in work zones with a posted 45 mph speed limit dropped from 47 mph in May to 43 mph in November. The average speed in work zones with a posted speed limit of 55 mph was approximately 50 mph. Despite the speed reductions, more than 1,500 or four percent of all Thruway speed violations were repeat offenders.

Operation Hardhat

Under “Operation Hardhat”, State Troopers or local police officers are dressed as highway maintenance workers in active NYSDOT or Thruway work zones across New York, identifying and citing motorists for a number of violations, including disobeying flagging personnel, speeding through work zones, cell phone and seatbelt use, and/or violations of the State’s Move Over law. In 2023, 2,919 tickets were issued by State Police and participating law enforcement agencies during 84 deployments across the state.

The 2,919 tickets issued during Operation Hardhat this year included the following violations:

  • Speeding – 1,048
  • Cell Phone Usage – 499
  • Seatbelt – 353
  • Failure to Move Over – 230
  • Failure to Obey Traffic Control Device – 18
  • Unsafe Lane Change – 3
  • Failure to Obey Flagger – 1
  • Other Violations – 767

Other violations may include but are not limited to tickets issued for cracked windshields, broken headlights, expired inspections, improper exhaust, and unlicensed operation.

Violations by region were distributed as follows:

  • Utica/Mohawk Valley – 504
  • Albany/Capital Region – 438
  • Long Island – 378
  • Syracuse/Central New York – 272
  • Binghamton/Southern Tier – 272
  • Thruway – 258
  • Rochester/Finger Lakes – 222
  • Hornell/Western Southern Tier – 198
  • Watertown/North Country – 174
  • Poughkeepsie/Hudson Valley – 105
  • Buffalo/Western New York – 98

New Move Over Law

In September 2023, Governor Hochul signed legislation enhancing the existing “Move Over Law” to require drivers to exercise due care to avoid all vehicles stopped on the roadway, including by changing lanes. The Move Over Law has been in place since 2010 and was originally designed to prevent collisions with emergency vehicles. In the years since, the law was expanded to cover hazard vehicles and other responder vehicles. Nearly 300 drivers are struck and killed roadside every year nationally, and 37 people were struck and killed outside of a disabled vehicle in New York from 2016-2020. The most recent amendment expanded the existing law to cover all vehicles stopped on the road.

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