Assemblyman Dov Hikind is calling on the New York State Department of Transportation to change roadway work zone regulations resulting in the unfair issuance of double fines in inactive construction areas. Currently, road signs in work zones lower speed limits and indicate that speeding will result in fines being doubled. This is the case even when construction workers are not present, such as at night, when the work has not yet started, or has long been completed. Hikind has written to the DOT asking them to consider implementing changes so that double penalties should not be in effect in those cases.
“I certainly understand the necessity of obeying work zone speed limits during working hours both for crews’ and motorists’ safety. However, I have driven many times to and from Albany and encountered work zones with no workers. Drivers are frustrated and traffic stalls. In areas where no one is working, or when crews haven’t even started working, one should not be hit with a double penalty. This is an issue of fairness. I call upon the DOT to address this issue internally and come up with a workable solution for New York State drivers.”
The exemption for double penalties exists in 24 other states and the District of Columbia. In addition, there is legislation in other states that calls for the marking of work zones and placing of traffic control devices as close to actual work times as possible and their removal after work is completed in a timely fashion. Studies have shown that such restrictions results in traffic slowdowns, possible rear-end collisions, and even the unintended consequences of motorists less likely to obey reduced speed limits.
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The text of the letter follows:
Dear Commissioner Driscoll,
I believe we all agree that the safety of workers and motorists in work zones is of the utmost importance. For this reason, there are reduced speed limits in and around these zones. Currently, the law calls for issuance of “double fines” to deter motorists from speeding in the zones.
Despite the good intentions of this law, an issue of fairness has arisen. First, double fines in inactive zones are problematic. The double fines are an added deterrent for the safety of workers and should therefore not be in place when those workers are not present. In those cases, the reduced speed limit should be treated like any other infraction that results in regular fines, not a double penalty. This exemption currently exists in 24 other states and the District of Columbia. I am requesting that the department look into adopting a similar measure. Devices such as a flashing white strobe light indicating an active work zone would have a better effect of signaling to motorists to take additional precautions, a win-win.
Second, I have personally witnessed signs and devices put in place well before the work zone is active and those not removed long after the work is completed. Legislation in other states calls for the marking of work-zones as close to actual work times as possible and the removal of any signs and devices once the work is completed in a timely fashion. Indeed, studies show that long durations of traffic control devices in inactive work zones result in motorists less likely to obey reduced speed limits. This unintended consequence not only undermines safety in the long-run, it can slow traffic when it is not intended.
I hope that the DOT can address these issues and come up with a workable solution for drivers in New York State without the need for legislation. I look forward working with you on this matter.
Member of Assembly