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It’s National Work Zone Awareness Week in New York state

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ALBANY - New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald kicked off the highway and bridge construction season with a message to New York motorists to use caution in highway maintenance and construction work zones. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has designated April 7-11 as National Work Zone Awareness Week, with the theme “Work Zone Speeding: A Costly Mistake.”

“Safety for the traveling public and for our workers is our top priority,” Commissioner McDonald said. “The cost of speeding through a highway work zone could be as simple as a traffic ticket with a heavy fine – or it could be as costly as taking your own life or the life of one of our construction workers. Motorists must slow down and pay extra attention when driving through work zones.”

Last year in New York state there were 406 traffic crashes in construction work zones on the state’s roads and bridges, and 67 traffic crashes in maintenance work zones on state highways. Those crashes resulted in four fatalities and 259 motorists, contractor employees and NYSDOT staff being injured.

Construction and maintenance on New York State’s highways and bridges is essential to keeping the public safe and to supporting the economy. The focus of Work Zone Safety week is to encourage motorists to drive carefully through work zones, avoid distractions and refrain from speeding.

New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said, “As construction season ramps up across New York, the State Police ask all drivers to watch their speed, especially in work zones. Our Troopers work hard every day to keep our roadways safe - not only for the people who drive them, but also for those who work on them. We encourage all drivers to stay alert, slow down, and put your electronic devices away.”

FHWA New York Division Administrator Jonathan McDade said, “Driving demands our full attention, and nowhere is this any more important than in the work zones across our state.

Springtime brings with it not only warmer weather, but also a return to a full slate of construction projects and their associated work zones. Therefore, all of us need to slow down and avoid anything that diverts our attention – like cell phones and texting. For the safety of our highway workers and the public, we must remain focused and attentive as we carry out the critical task of safely driving through our work zones. And as always, buckle up every time you get into a vehicle.”

All NYSDOT construction and maintenance projects go through rigorous review to ensure they comply with the goals of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Driver’s First Initiative, which prioritizes the convenience of motorists and ensures that disruptions are as minimal as possible to drivers at highway and bridge projects across the state. Even with an eye toward minimizing inconvenience, traffic delays are sometimes unavoidable. Electronic variable message signs, Highway Advisory Radio, social media and New York State’s free 511NY travel information system are all tools the public can utilize to become aware of ongoing construction projects.

In New York State, fines are doubled for speeding in a work zone. 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’s license.

NYSDOT recommends that motorists observe the following ten safety tips essential for safe driving in highway construction work zones:

1. Expect the unexpected. In any work zone along any road, normal speed limits may be reduced, traffic lanes may be changed, and people and vehicles may be working on or near the road.

2. Slow down, be alert and pay attention to the signs. Diamond-shaped orange warning signs are posted in advance of road construction projects.

3. Remember, a flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign. In addition to other warning signs, a “flagger ahead” warning sign may be posted in the work-zone. When you see this, stay alert and be prepared to obey the flagger’s directions. In a work-zone, you can be cited for disobeying his or her directions.

4. Stay calm. Work-zones aren’t there to inconvenience you; they are necessary to improve the roads for everyone.

5. Merge as soon as possible. You may see flashing arrow panels or “lane closed ahead” signs. Don’t zoom right up to the lane closure and then try to barge in; if everyone cooperates, traffic moves more efficiently. Motorists can help maintain traffic flow and posted speeds by moving to the appropriate lane at first notice of an approaching work zone.

6. Slow down when the signs say to. A car traveling 60 miles per hour travels 88 feet per second. If you are going 60 mph and you pass a sign that states “Road Work 1500 feet,” you will be in that work zone in 17 seconds.

7. Leave two-seconds of braking distance between you and the car in front of you. The most common crash in a highway work zone is the rear-end collision, so remember the amount of space required to provide two seconds of stopping time will increase the faster you are driving.

8. Keep a safe distance. Make space between vehicle and traffic barriers, trucks, construction equipment and workers. Just like you, highway workers want to return home safely after each day’s work.

9. Observe posted work zone signs until you see the one that states you’ve left the work zone. Some work zones, such as for line painting, road patching, and mowing are mobile, moving down the road as work is finished. Just because you do not see workers immediately after you see the warning signs, does not mean they are not out there.

10. Plan ahead and try an alternate route. Highway agencies use different ways to inform motorists about the location and duration of major work zones. Often, they will suggest a detour to help you avoid the work zone entirely.

For up-to-date travel information, call 511 or visit www.511NY.org. Find NYSDOT on Facebook and follow New York State DOT on Twitter: @NYSDOT.

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