By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A bill sponsored by state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Coney Island-Bensonhurst-Staten Island) to increase the criminal penalties against reckless drivers who kill or injure hard hats in construction zones has been passed unanimously by the state senate.
Calling it “important safety legislation,” Savino said her bill, called the Work Safety Act, “will ensure that those who would put working people in harm’s way will be held accountable.”
The bill was approved by the state senate on April 30 and has been sent over to the state assembly for consideration. Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island) is sponsoring the bill in the assembly. “It is vital that we protect those who work to make our roads safe,” Cusick said.
The legislation would establish tough new criminal penalties for injuring or killing construction workers in construction zones the same way New York State has in place stricter penalties for injuring or killing police officers.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn), who voted for Savino’s bill, also called it an important piece of legislation. “Speeding and reckless driving is a major issue throughout the state, and those who operate a motor vehicle in this manner, in a work zone, and cause injuries to workers, should face the harshest of penalties. Our state construction workers face dangers every day working on some of the most traveled roads in the country, and those who disregard their safety not only put the safety of these workers at risk, but the safety of everyone on the road,” he said.
The legislation also had the support of the de Blasio Administration.
In early April, Savino joined a host of city officials and workplace safety advocates to kickoff the city’s for Zone Watch program, part of National Work Zone Awareness Week, which was observed from April 7-11.
The city’s program included the placement of trailers equipped with cameras that were placed at nine sites throughout the city to document reckless driving through work zones. The cameras are part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, which is aimed at greatly reducing the number of traffic fatalities on city streets.
Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd jointly announced the launch of the camera effort, a program called Zone Watch.
Nearly two dozen city Department of Transportation (DOT) workers have been injured in work zone incidents since 2009 and seven died from work zone-related events during the past two decades, according to DOT.
“Dangerous driving in work zones threatens the lives of the men and women who maintain our streets, bridges and other infrastructure. Vision Zero brings the need for safer streets into sharper focus. While every motorist needs to do their part by slowing down, our enhanced Zone Watch program is another important tool to protect our crews,” Trottenberg said.
“The men and women who build and maintain the infrastructure that makes life in New York City possible deserve a safe working environment. At DEP, we provide our employees with the training and experience to safely work on our streets, but we need the public’s help to prevent accidents and injuries,” Lloyd said.
“Our workers are in harm’s way 24 hours a day building and rebuilding our roads and bridges,” said Denise Richardson, managing director of the General Contractors Association of New York, which represents the city’s heavy construction industry. “And while we as an industry are constantly focused on ways to ensure their safety, their safety frequently depends on something beyond our control – the motoring public obeying speed limits and traffic laws.”