The construction industry is extremely dangerous for New York workers, especially those that handle our city’s infrastructure. Not only do road crews work with powerful and often dangerous equipment, but they must also contend with great heights, complicated projects, and negligent drivers. While everyone knows they should slow down in a construction zone and strictly follow all traffic laws, in addition to road crew directions, many drivers still choose to recklessly endanger road crews.
What Is Operation Hardhat?
In response to growing concerns about the safety of road crews, Governor Cuomo has pushed the New York State Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority, and New York State Police to implement “Operation Hardhat.” This traffic enforcement program is specifically targeted at reckless drivers who violate traffic laws on roadways that are under construction, particularly along the Adirondack Northway and the Thruway. State troopers will now be heavily enforcing traffic laws in these regions by dressing as construction zone workers and citing any driver who disobeys local restrictions, such as:
- Driving while texting or on the phone
- Ignoring traffic signs
- Ignoring road crew flaggers
- Breaking New York’s Move Over Law, which applies to maintenance vehicles
Violating a traffic law in a construction zone is specifically outlined under NYS VTL § 1180f, which makes doubles all fines in that area. While Operation Hardhat does not add any further penalties onto drivers, it does increase the rate at which drivers are charged. In 2019, when this program was first enacted, New York State Police issued 1,048 tickets throughout the state.
How Can It Protect Workers?
Current reports regarding Operation Hardhat only take into account the number of tickets issued and the types of violations that State Police reported, making it unclear as to how effective this program is. However, one could argue that because State Police were able to identify and fine over a thousand negligent drivers, that means that they effectively prevented serious accidents and injuries.
While the data may not be clear yet, any effort to protect road crews should be considered. They are often heavily exposed during highway maintenance, both to dangerous construction accidents and vehicle collisions. With regard to the former, construction companies are already expected to maximize their worker’s safety by obeying all local and state guidelines, as well as OSHA mandates. This includes providing safety equipment, properly training and hiring workers, and removing any dangerous hazards. But construction companies can only do so much to keep their workers protected from negligent drivers.
Drivers who disregard traffic laws in construction zones not only face significant fines and penalties, but also put workers at risk of suffering catastrophic injuries in pedestrian accidents. Construction zones often have a limited amount of space as lanes are closed off and multiple pieces of equipment in use by workers. If a driver speeds or ignores a flagger’s instructions, they can collide with a worker, piece of equipment, maintenance vehicle, or building material. While the driver may be severely injured, they can also cause a chain reaction where workers are knocked into trenches, equipment misfire, and workers lose control of maintenance vehicles, causing further auto accidents.
Altogether, construction zone accidents can be deadly, and everyone on the road should take great effort to prevent a collision.
Recovering After a Road Crew Accident
If you are a construction worker injured by a negligent driver, you may have two sources of compensation. The first is workers’ compensation, which will apply so long as you are performing your duties. This means if you are a flagger who was struck by a speeding driver or a maintenance vehicle driver who was T-boned at an intersection, then workers’ compensation should apply. You will want to report the accident to your employer as soon as possible and get started with filing a claim so that you can receive your benefits quickly.
However, you also may be eligible to file an auto accident claim against the at-fault driver so long as they acted negligently. Violating any traffic law is enough to constitute negligence, especially if it occurred in a construction zone. An auto accident claim could provide significantly more coverage than a workers’ compensation claim, but you will have to contend with the driver’s insurance policy.
In both situations, your best option is to speak to an experienced New York car accident attorney who can advocate on your behalf. Insurance companies are resistant to paying out proper compensation to injured parties, whether they handle workers’ comp claims or auto accident claims. But, with the aid of the team at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, you may be able to recover the necessary compensation for you to heal comfortably. If you were injured on a road crew in New York, call us at (212) 986-7353 to discuss your case.