New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan today joined Federal Highway Administrator (FHWA) Victor Mendez and New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee to kick off National Work Zone Awareness Week, highlighting the dangers to roadway crews and calling on motorists to drive with care in roadway work zones. More than 40,000 people are injured each year in motor vehicle crashes in work zones nationwide, and more than 700 people died in work zone-related incidents in 2008. Commissioner Sadik-Khan was joined by Administrator Mendez and Commissioner Gee at a solemn event this morning in Battery Park, where they presented a memorial listing the names of 1,364 people who were killed in work zone incidents nationwide, many of them roadway workers. Dozens of NYCDOT workers attended the event, many in memory of their fallen colleague, road repairer Nicky Antico, who was struck and killed by a speeding motorist in a closed work zone on Staten Island in 2005. Antico's widow, Anna, also attended the event.
"A work zone is a workplace for our transportation professionals, and they should have the same protections as those in any office or other workplace in the city," said NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "Our laws should reflect the dangerous reality our workers face each day."
"Despite increased highway construction and repair work in each state and increases in traffic volume, roadway fatalities continue to fall—especially in work zones," said Administrator Mendez. "These trends tell us we're making good progress, but we are also counting on drivers to give road workers their undivided attention as they strive to make highways safer for everyone."
In New York City, six NYCDOT workers have died in work zone incidents in the last 20 years. To help drive down these numbers and to raise awareness of the dangers of reckless driving in active construction areas, NYCDOT, in conjunction with FHWA and NYSDOT, unveiled a dramatic new ad campaign to air statewide. One of the ad campaigns shows an orange traffic cone knocked on its side with the tagline, "Work Zones Need Our Undivided Attention." A second campaign shows the black-and-white images and heartfelt testimonials of New York residents who have lost loved ones in work zone incidents. Advertisements will appear in print and on the radio for the coming week and can be reviewed at www.nyc.gov/dot.
NYCDOT has made work zone safety a priority on its legislative agenda, calling for Albany to pass legislation sponsored by state Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Michael Cusick to create laws for vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter in the first and second degrees in active work zones throughout the state. Currently, motorists who enter a work zone cannot be cited for any infraction. Under the proposed legislation, the new crime of intrusion into an active work zone would also be created, subjecting offenders to a $250 - $500 fine and/or a maximum sentence of three months imprisonment.
"On the morning of September 22, 2005, right here in Staten Island, City Highway Repairman Nick Antico, was struck and killed by a driver who recklessly entered a work zone. He was going twice the speed limit," said Senator Savino. "The men and women who get up early every day, strap on their boots and head off to repair or maintain our roads, make our city run. They should not have to worry about risking their lives because of careless or irresponsible drivers. Each of us has the power to protect and save lives. Speed and inattention are the leading causes of work zone crashes. We need to put our cell phones down and focus on driving. Lives are depending on it."
"There have been too many instances where someone's reckless behavior has injured or even killed road construction workers," said Assemblyman Michael Cusick. "It's my hope that my legislation will make accidents like this a thing of the past by creating more severe penalties for this type of inexcusable carelessness."
National Work Zone Awareness Week is a national campaign conducted at the start of construction season to encourage safe driving through highway construction sites. While it is observed nationally by state, local and federal transportation officials for one week in April, its message resonates year round as men and women work diligently 365 days, seven days a week to maintain the streets, roadways, highways, tunnels and bridges that comprise the nation's infrastructure.
For more information on National Work Zone Awareness Week, visit www.nyc.gov/dot.