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Work zone workers may not be what you think

(Provided photo — Rob Haynes state Department of Transportation)

You can’t drive very far between April and October in the North Country and not encounter a highway work zone. The window for doing road work is relatively short. But work zones mean delays, and drivers don’t like delays. In work zones, the most pressing thing is the safety of the workers and of the motorists.

In May 2005, three New York State Department of Transportation workers were killed by a commercial bus speeding through a work zone on Interstate 81 in the town of Chenango (near Binghamton). As a result of this tragedy, the “2005 Work Zone Safety Act” was passed. This legislation doubled the speeding fines within a work zone and suspended a driver’s license for two work zone violations within an 18-month period. It also led to the creation of the State Police Traffic Incident Management Team (TIMs), which consists of approximately 100 troopers statewide, who as part of their duties enforce Vehicle and Traffic Law in work zones.

In the picture (courtesy of NYS DOT) accompanying this article, you see what appear to be several workers with the NYS DOT, performing road maintenance work on U.S. Route 11 north of Malone between the Brainairdsville Road (Franklin County Route 24) and the town of Burke. However, the man with the flag is a New York state trooper.

In an enforcement crackdown on work zone violations, the New York State Police joined forces with the NYS DOT. On Aug. 27 and 29, 38 tickets were issued on U.S. 11 just north of Malone. Two involved a “work zone intrusion” in which a driver was in such a hurry that he/she actually drove around the flag man. Many of the tickets issued were for equipment violations, not wearing seat belts, cellphone violations and speeding in a work zone, which will result in double the normal speeding fines.

These details to date have occurred in four NYSP troops over 13 days covering 17 different locations on both two-lane roads and four-lane divided highways. More details are planned around the state for September and October.

As of Sept. 9, 471 tickets have been issued, including 228 for speeding, 58 for cellphone use, 43 for seat belt violation, two for child restraint, two for failure to obey a flag person, five for failure to move over and 133 for other violations.

Work zones are not there to inconvenience you — they are necessary to improve the roads for everyone. Just because you don’t see workers doesn’t mean they are not out there. Furthermore, reduced speed limits in work areas are necessary because of broken pavement or alignment changes, not solely because workers are present.

Of the approximately 35,000 traffic fatalities every year nationwide, nearly 3% of those occur in work zones. The job of highway and bridge maintenance is a dangerous one, one that deserves the consideration of all drivers. Unfortunately, too many motorists are impatient, distracted or just inconsiderate, too often resulting in injuries or fatalities. It is critically important that motorists eliminate distractions, pay attention to driving and, on multi-lane highways move over a travel lane to give highway workers room.

So the next time you are tempted to disobey a flag person or speed in a work zone, remember that one of the DOT workers just might be a trooper.

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