National Work Zone Awareness Week Helps Save Lives

Construction workers on NYC roads make much-needed repairs and improvements that help keep us all safe. Yet the workers themselves face danger from motorists who drive carelessly through their work zones. More than 32,000 people are injured each year in the U.S. in motor vehicle work zone accidents. On average, every 16 minutes there is another work zone injury, and every 15 hours, another fatality. In New York City alone, 22 Department of Transportation (DOT) workers have been injured in work zone accidents since 2009.

National Work Zone Awareness Week

To help reduce work zone accidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation holds a National Work Zone Awareness Week every year in April, when the number of workers on the roads increases.  The goal is to make drivers more aware of the need to drive carefully in work zones. The NYC DOT has information about the event on their website.

Safety is Everyone's Responsibility

The tagline for the 2017 Awareness Week is "Work Zone Safety is in Your Hands."  It is up to every driver to practice safe driving habits.Work zone accidents can be prevented. More than half of all work-zone accidents are rear-end collisions, many caused by speeding and distracted driving. Slowing down and paying attention saves lives.It is simple but crucially important. A New York State DOT Spokesman put it well: "I ask you to drive through the work zones as if someone you know, someone you love, is standing on the other side of those orange cones." It only takes a few extra minutes to slow down.  "We all know that no one's life is worth the extra few minutes," he said. "But we forget sometimes." This year, DOT hopes that you remember.

The life you save could be your own. Victims of work zone accidents are not only road workers. In fact, four out of five of the people injured or killed in these accidents are the drivers who caused the accidents and their passengers.

7 Tips To Avoid A Construction Zone AccidentNew York State DOT experts recommend these safe driving behaviors:

  • Watch out for signs.  Many work zone accidents happen when drivers don't pay attention to signs announcing an upcoming work zone and then are surprised when it's there.
  • Watch out for flags. These make workers more visible.
  • Be aware of roadside construction equipment.
  • Drive at a safe speed. Follow the posted speed limits in and around the work zones, but don't lag behind the flow of traffic.
  • Don't get distracted. Distracted driving is a problem any time you are on the road, but it is especially dangerous in work zones. Don't use your phone, and don't fiddle with the radio.
  • Stay in your lane. Don't change lanes until you are out of the zone.
  • Be patient. Impatient driving in a construction zone can lead to driver mistakes. Remember that the work that is slowing you down is being done for your future benefit.

Proposed New York State Work Zone Safety Legislation

New York State legislators are tackling the problem of road worker safety. They are considering a bill called the "Work Zone Safety Bill." If it passes, it would make "intrusion into an active work zone" a misdemeanor with fines of $250 to $500 and/or up-to three months in prison.  The bill would also add new felonies to the Penal Code for vehicular manslaughter in an active work zone.

New York isn't the only state that wants to impose criminal penalties for dangerous driving in work zones. Pennsylvania adds five years in prison to vehicular homicide sentences if the accident took place in an active work zone. Michigan punishes vehicular homicide in work zones where the driver was speeding more than 10 miles over the speed limit with fines of up to $7,500 and/or prison sentences of up to 15 years.

These laws help increase safety.  You don't need the law, though, to know the right thing to do: pay attention and drive at the speed limit every time you go through a work zone.

Andrew Levine
Andrew J. Levine is a partner at Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, in New York, NY. A graduate of Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. For 15 years he has been widely trusted and respected as a formidable attorney but acknowledged as a reasonable and ethical collaborator who impresses clients, judges and jurors alike. Andrew has been featured in New York Magazine as one of New York’s “Top Personal Injury Litigators” and recognized by Super Lawyers as a “Top Rated Personal Injury Attorney in New York.”
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