New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan today announced the launch of Zone Watch, a new initiative to mount mobile cameras to equipment to better document and deter reckless driving through designated work zones, as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to enhance safety for everyone using the streets and in conjunction with National Work Zone Awareness Week, which is being observed April 15-19. The cameras, which would be connected to DVRs, would record footage that could be used as additional evidentiary support for work zone intrusions. This low-cost application of technology could greatly enhance safety for workers, drivers and their passengers. In fact, 85% of those killed in work zones are motorists or passengers. This new program builds on DOT’s partnership with elected leaders for legislation creating stiffer penalties for motorists driving recklessly through work zones. Zone Watch also follows DOT’s safety education efforts and ad campaign for awareness that work zones are work places for transportation professionals and to encourage motorist to drive with care around them. The Commissioner joined Borough President James Molinaro to unveil the new Zone Watch program with a DOT resurfacing crew at Ramapo and Marcy avenues in Staten Island.
“DOT crews keep New Yorkers moving forward year-round by maintaining streets and bridges so they are safer and work better for everyone,” said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. “Dangerous driving puts everyone on the road at risk, so slowing down and respecting work zones saves lives.”
“It is very important to provide all of our workers in the field the proper safety measures and I applaud Commissioner Sadik-Khan and her team on enhancing and expanding the Work Zone Safety initiative through the new Zone Watch program,” said Borough President Molinaro.
“I want to thank the DOT and the Mayor’s office for supporting the Work Zone Safety Act, this legislation will ensure that those who would put working people in harm’s way will be held accountable,” said State Senator Diane Savino. “I am confident that the Senate will take this bill up and pass it again this session and we hope that the Assembly will also so the Governor can sign this important safety legislation.”
“Our plea is to slow down and cut these hardworking men and women some slack,” said Council Member James Oddo. “They are out there working hard and repairing the roads we all use. No matter where you have to be or how late you are, there’s no legitimate reason to put their lives at risk. Use common sense and just slow down.”
As part of Zone Watch, DOT is attaching mobile video cameras to equipment in work zones such as trucks, attenuators and variable message signs to record activity at the approach and alongside work zones. The agency also will station speed boards at the start of work zones to remind motorists of their speed. Clear signs will be posted at the start and around work zone to alert motorists that the area is being monitored by video. The cameras would transmit video footage to recording devices and also wirelessly so it can be viewed by supervisors onsite and remotely, if needed.
On the legislative front, DOT is working with elected officials to strengthen laws to better protect workers. The City is proposing legislation to amend the penal law to make assault of an on-duty DOT employee a felony, awarding DOT crews the same protections as police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and traffic enforcement agents. Additionally, the proposed bill would establish a penalty for intruding into an active work zone, with stiff fines and the possibility of serving jail time. The City also supports amendments by Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh and Senator Daniel Squadron to the Hayley and Diego law that would add highway workers to the list of vulnerable roadway users, allowing new enforcement tools should a highway worker be injured by reckless driving. State Senator Diane Savino also is sponsoring legislation that would create the crimes of vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter in the first and second degrees in active work zones throughout New York.
Roughly one work zone fatality occurs every 15 hours nationally. In New York City, nearly two dozen city DOT workers have been injured in work zone incidents since 2009 and seven employees died from crashes in work zones during the past two decades. In 2005, city DOT roadway repairer Nicholas (“Nicky”) Antico sustained fatal injuries after a motorist sped through his work zone, striking him and two of his co-workers. The vehicle left the scene of the accident, and while the motorist later came forward, this highlights the benefit of using technology such as cameras to better document work-zone incidents.
DOT is marking National Work Zone Awareness Week by re-launching its safety campaign with support from District Council 37; AFSCME; AFL-CIO; DC-37 Locals 1157 and 1455; International Union of Operating Engineers Local 15 and Service Employees International Union Local 246. The ads feature Nicky Antico’s widow, Anna, and others sharing heartfelt testimonials of losing a loved one to work-zone crashes. Billboards in New York City and Albany now carry work zone ads and DOT has rebranded its Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr sites, such as The Daily Pothole, to highlight work zone awareness safety tips, facts and other information throughout the week. DOT staff also is distributing information at various locations citywide, including the Whitehall Staten Island Ferry terminal and at various New York State Department of Motor Vehicle facilities.
Information about DOT’s ongoing efforts to enhance safety on New York City’s streets, roadways and bridges can be found at nyc.gov/dot.