TRENTON, NJ – To protect highway workers from injury and death by reckless drivers, Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli has introduced the “Highway Worker Safety Act.”
The legislation increases the penalties for vehicular homicide when caused by a motorist who was driving “recklessly” within a highway construction, maintenance or incident zone while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or if the individual was driving with a suspended or revoked license.
“Highway workers often work in high traffic, high speed areas where there is little lighting and limited visibility, putting them at great risk of being hit by motorists,” said Ciattarelli, R-Somerset. “They shouldn’t have to sacrifice their safety despite these difficult work conditions. Most, if not all of such accidents are preventable. Drivers need to pay attention to their surroundings and changing roadway conditions, slowing down when approaching work areas.”
The bill also creates a new offense - assault by auto – if a worker is injured by a motorist who was driving aggressively. It also revises the state’s “move over” law to require drivers to move over when approaching highway construction, maintenance or incident zones. The law currently requires motorists to reduce their speed and change lanes when authorized vehicles are displaying flashing lights. Violators face a $100 to $500 fine. Penalties would increase to $500 to $1,000.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that each year, more than 100 workers are killed and over 20,000 are injured in the highway and street construction industry. Of these fatalities, 55 percent occur within work zone areas.