Work Zone, Emergency and Law Personnel Safety on the Highway

On April 18, 2015, an Idaho high school student lost control of his motorcycle while heading into a construction zone and died. As a result, more signs have been added to warn motorists of the upcoming construction zone. Accidents like this occur all the time; many times injuring or killing vulnerable construction workers. Emergency safety workers and law enforcement officers are also at risk.

Back in 2010, a 28-year old Massachusetts Trooper was killed by a drunk driver while blocking traffic at a construction site. Distracted and drunk driving have become perilous threats to construction, law and emergency personnel on the roadways.

According to a report by, on average a little under 600 fatal accidents occur each year in construction zones, and mostly due to distracted driving.

Here are some things you can do to ensure the safety of construction workers (as well as yourself):

  • Pay attention to the orange diamond-shaped warning signs or electronic message boards posted in advance of a road construction project.
  • Stay alert. Dedicate your full attention to driving.
  • Minimize distractions. Avoid changing radio stations, using a cell phone, etc. while driving in a work zone.
  • Drive carefully and slowly through the construction site; always obey the posted speed limits in the work zone area.
  • Pay close attention and heed directions on work zone warning signs. Signs and work zone flaggers save lives.
  • Watch for stopped or slowing traffic. Do not tailgate.
  • Expect the unexpected. Anticipate potential dangers.
  • Watch how the traffic ahead is flowing.
  • Keep an eye out for construction workers, their equipment and vehicles, as well as the vehicles around you.
  • Use extra caution when driving through a site at night.
  • Watch for detours and lane diversions.

Make sure not to:

  • Speed up or slow down significantly while going through a work zone.
  • Slow down to look at the construction work being done.
  • Resume normal speed until after you emerge completely out of the work zone area.
  • Tailgate. Most of the accidents within a work zone are rear-end collisions.
  • Change lanes within a work zone.

In addition to following these tips to keep everyone safe in construction zones, forty-three states have instituted “Move Over America” laws (with strict penalties) where motorists are required to “Move Over” and change lanes to give safe clearance to law enforcement officers on roadsides.

In New York State, as part of the “Move Over America” initiative, drivers must use due care when approaching an emergency vehicle that displays red and/or white emergency lighting:

  • On all roads and highways, drivers must reduce speed;
  • On parkways and other controlled access highways with multiple lanes, when approaching an emergency vehicle that displays red and/or white emergency lighting or a hazard vehicle displaying flashing amber lighting, drivers must move from the lane immediately adjacent to the emergency or hazard vehicle, unless traffic or other hazards exist to prevent doing so safely.

Violations of this law are punishable as a moving violation.

Construction, emergency and law enforcement personnel put their lives at risk every day to better our quality of life. It is important to respect them and what they do by following simple safety measures and by avoiding distracted or impaired driving. NYS Department of Transportation has put out an information game (test drive simulator) and website to help people better understand and helps one test him or herself on the laws relating to the “Move Over America” initiative.

If you or someone you know is injured as a result of construction work zone negligence, we can help. Contact the law offices of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP to learn how we can help you or your loved one while they focus on healing.