Initiative Between Police, Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority aims to keep highway workers safe in construction work zones
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced New York State Police and another law enforcement agency issued 444 tickets during last week's “Operation Hardhat” an initiative between law enforcement entities, the New York State Department of Transportation and the New York State Thruway Authority, to crack down on work zone violations and highlight the importance of safe driving when encountering construction, maintenance and emergency operations along state highways.
“Operation Hardhat” details were held in almost every region of New York in support of National Work Zone Awareness Week, which took place from April 26-30. The enforcement and educational efforts come as New York continues to experience a rising number of work zone intrusions, including three recent crashes that injured six highway workers just last week.
During “Operation Hardhat,” members of law enforcement patrol DOT and Thruway Authority work zones to enforce work zone speed limits and ensure motorists are obeying flagging personnel.
"Our highway workers do vitally important work in often hazardous conditions so that we can all get where we need to go safely and with minimal delays," Cuomo said. "Just last week, six highway workers in state work zones were sent to the hospital as a result of work zone crashes. I applaud all those who took part in ‘Operation Hardhat’ and urge motorists to slow down and drive safely in work zones. New York state has zero tolerance for drivers who endanger our dedicated workforce."
The 444 tickets issued during “Operation Hardhat” included the following violations:
•Speeding – 81
•Seatbelts – 41
•Cell phone – 135
•Failure to move over – 47
•Failure to obey traffic control device – 1
•Other violations – 139
“Operation Hardhat” details resulted in violations in almost every region of the state, including:
•Hudson Valley – 161
•Long Island – 59
•Capital Region – 53
•Central New York – 46
•Southern Tier – 44
•Mohawk Valley – 37
•Western New York – 26
•North Country – 18
The New York State Police conducted the majority of the “Operation Hardhat” details across the state. The Oneida County Sheriff's Office partnered with the DOT during the week to stage a detail at a work zone near Kirkland, issuing 17 tickets. Earlier, on April 13, the State Police also held an “Operation Hardhat” detail along Interstate 490 in Monroe County, in the Finger Lakes Region, that resulted in 41 tickets being issued, including 19 for speeding.
Under "Operation Hardhat," police officers are present within the work zones, dressed as highway maintenance workers, to identify motorists who are distracted by electronic devices while driving, disobey flagging personnel, speed through the work zone or violate the state's Move Over Law, which applies to both emergency and maintenance vehicles.
Additional details will be held throughout the construction season.
DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, " ‘Operation Hardhat’ is an incredibly effective way to enforce work zone safety and I can't thank our partners in law enforcement enough for the work they are doing to help protect our transportation workers who, each day, face enormous hazards on the job. Those hazards were all too evident on April 27, when two members of the DOT family were hospitalized, one with critical injuries, following a vehicle collision in a work zone along Interstate 87 – a site that only a short time earlier had been the location of an ‘Operation Hardhat’ detail. It's imperative that motorists put down their phones, pay attention and drive safely in highway work zones and show our transportation workers the respect they deserve."
Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said, "Already this construction season, there have been numerous incidents on New York state roads that put roadside crews in danger, including one that resulted in serious injuries to DOT workers. Initiatives such as “Operation Hardhat” promote awareness for work zone safety, and it's crucial motorists make safety a priority when traveling in work zones. Lives depend on it. We thank our partners at New York State Police Troop T for keeping the thruway safe and protecting the lives of motorists and our workers."
Acting State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, "Law enforcement and other emergency responders, including highway workers, do their jobs each day in a dangerous environment, and risk their lives to keep the traveling public safe. Unfortunately, our troopers have witnessed too many tragedies caused by reckless driving in work zones. Please, slow down, follow posted speed limits and put your phones down while you drive. Drivers are responsible for following the rules of the road, and violations of the Move Over Law and work zone intrusions will not be tolerated."
A press release stated, “Recognizing and understanding signs leading up to and within a work zone is essential for the safety of all drivers and roadside workers. Motorists are reminded that fines are doubled for speeding in a work zone and, in accordance with the Work Zone Safety Act of 2005, convictions of two or more speeding violations in a work zone could result in the suspension of an individual's driver license.”
More work zone safety tips can be found at thruway.ny.gov.
“Maintenance crews across the state work alongside fast-moving traffic each day, knowing their lives depend on drivers being alert, patient and cautious. It is critically important that motorists eliminate distractions, pay attention to driving and move over for workers.
“During Work Zone Awareness Week, the Thruway Authority released shocking video of a work zone intrusion. On April 19, a thruway maintenance crew was working on I-90 near Albany when a motorist entered the work zone and hit a thruway maintenance truck. The crew had just returned to their vehicle moments before it was hit, and thankfully no one was injured.
“As construction season begins, more maintenance and work crews will be out on the road performing repairs and improvements to ensure roads are safe for motorists. All travelers should be prepared to reduce speeds and to be alert when passing through work zones.”
Since 2000, National Work Zone Awareness Week has been recognized by the Federal Highway Administration. This year's theme is: "Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives."
‘Operation Hardhat’ Results Highlight Need for Immediate Action by Lawmakers
The New York State Laborers' Union issued this statement regarding “Operation Hardhat”:
Today, as he does every year during Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the results of New York state’s “Operation Hardhat” – an initiative conducted to crack down on work zone violations and highlight the importance of safe driving when encountering road construction and maintenance.
And again, as with every year, an unacceptable amount of violations rolled in over a mere five-day period. Four-hundred forty-four tickets were issued between April 26 and April 30. That’s 444 instances where drivers completely disregarded the safety of the men and women who were simply doing their job to keep New York state’s highways safe.
Per a statement issued by the Governor’s office: “The enforcement and educational efforts come as New York state continues to experience a rising number of work zone intrusions, including three recent crashes that injured six highway workers just last week.”
While our organization certainly appreciates “Operation Hardhat’s” enforcement and education efforts and drawing attention to the magnitude of this issue – it’s time for real action that will help stop drivers’ dangerous behavior in work zones.
For two years, the New York State Laborers' Union has backed legislation that would implement a photo enforcement program in work zones to enforce the speed limit and fine drivers who don’t comply. Similar programs utilized across the country have drastically reduced injuries and deaths in work zones, and dramatically curbed speeding violations.
New York state’s roadway workers deserve more than five-day crackdowns. The Legislature must pass and the governor must sign work zone photo enforcement legislation.
The New York State Laborers' Union represents over 40,000 members employed in the construction industry and other fields throughout the state. Its members are organized into more than 24 local unions and five district councils. It is an affiliate of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA). Learn more at www.nysliuna.org.