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For Immediate Release: 04/11/22
Contact: Office of Media Relations and Communications | (518) 471-5300 |   


State Police to Conduct New "Operation Hardhat" Details to Crack Down on Reckless Driving in Work Zones

Thruway Authority, NYSDOT, State Police, Emergency Personnel and Additional Roadside Workers to Conduct Outreach Across the State

Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority to Unveil New Social Media Campaign Highlighting Roadside Workers and Promote Awareness About Driving Safe in Work Zones

Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge and Other State Landmarks to be Lit Orange on Wednesday, April 13 in Honor of Highway Workers across New York State

The New York State Department of Transportation, the Thruway Authority and New York State Police today announced a week-long effort by New York State's transportation and emergency response agencies to promote and support National Work Zone Awareness Week April 11-15. The new effort comes as New York State continues to experience an alarming number of work zone intrusions and highlights the need for motorists to slow down and drive carefully through work zones. During the week, the New York State Police will conduct "Operation Hardhat" enforcement activities with troopers patrolling Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority work zones. Additionally, the DOT will launch a new social media campaign featuring retro-style graphics with catchy phrases that are meant to grab attention and help spread the message to slow down in work zones. The Thruway Authority will also launch a social media campaign with the theme, “We Are Your Neighbors,” highlighting Thruway staff and the importance of driving safe in a work zone.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “As New York’s economic recovery gains steam and more people take to the roads, it is imperative that we do whatever we can to raise awareness about the dangers our highway workers face and stress the need for all motorists to drive safely, especially in work zones.  Our highway workers often put themselves at risk so that the rest of us can travel safely and New York has zero tolerance for any driver who puts the lives of our dedicated workforce at risk.”

Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said, “The men and women behind the orange cones are parents, children, siblings, friends and family. They are your neighbors. Please remember this while driving through the work zone. Give them your full attention and help them go home safely to their loves ones at the end of their shift.”

New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, “Individuals who work on our roadways work in some of the most dangerous conditions and they should be able to do their jobs without fear of harm.  Through education and enforcement campaigns like Operation Hardhat, we are working to ensure our highway workers are able to go home to their families at the end of the workday. We encourage all drivers to slow down, move over and put your electronic devices away."

As construction season begins, more maintenance and work crews will be performing repairs and improvements to ensure roads are safe for motorists. All travelers should be prepared to reduce speeds and to be alert when passing through work zones. Since 2000, National Work Zone Awareness Week has been recognized by the Federal Highway Administration. This year's theme is, “Work Zones are a Sign to Slow Down.”

Maintenance crews across the state work alongside fast-moving traffic each day, knowing their lives depend on drivers being alert, patient and cautious. It is critically important that motorists eliminate distractions, pay attention to driving and move over for workers.

During 2021, there were 378 work zone intrusions on New York state roads maintained by the State Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority. A work zone intrusion is defined as an incident where a motor vehicle has entered a portion of the roadway that is closed due to construction or maintenance activity. More than 50 of those intrusions resulted injuries to either a highway worker or vehicle occupant.

In April 2021, a Thruway work zone intrusion was captured on video. The video shows a vehicle entering a work zone located on the Thruway (I-90) in Schenectady at a high rate of speed and crashing into a Thruway maintenance vehicle. The operator of the vehicle was ticketed by State Police. Luckily, the crew was uninjured and had returned to their vehicles less than five minutes before the intrusion.

Also in April of 2021, two DOT employees were hospitalized, one with critical injuries, following a vehicle collision in a work zone along Interstate 87 just north of Albany. Earlier that same day, three contract employees working for DOT needed emergency medical care after they were struck by private vehicle that, as a result of a collision, careened through their work zone.

New York State works year-round to enhance safety for its workforce. Under legislation signed by Governor Hochul, a pilot program will soon be getting under way to establish automated speed violation monitoring systems in work zones. These photo devices will be used to effectively monitor and penalize work zone violations, further supporting initiatives like “Operation Hardhat,” to hold motorists accountable.

Under "Operation Hardhat," police officers are present within the work zones - dressed as highway maintenance workers - to identify motorists who are distracted by electronic devices while driving, disobey flagging personnel, speed through the work zone or violate the state's Move Over Law, which applies to both emergency and maintenance vehicles. A total of 2,336 tickets were issued during Operation Hardhat details in 2021, breaking the previous record of 2,018 tickets set during 2020.

Other events and recognitions during the weeklong campaign include:

  • Work Zone Safety Stand Down Meetings in all four of the Thruway’s Maintenance Divisions (New York, Albany, Syracuse, and Buffalo) to review best practices for the prevention of work zone intrusions and protecting roadside workers.
  • Thruway and DOT employees to wear orange on Wednesday, April 13 in recognition of “Wear Orange Day.”

Civil Service Employees Association President Mary E. Sullivan said, “When people drive carelessly and speed through work zones, they put the lives of workers at risk. We have seen far too many deaths and injuries of workers who are just doing their jobs making sure our roads and highways are safe for the traveling public. We all have the responsibility to ensure that the men and women who are maintain our roads and bridges go home uninjured at the end of the day.”

Associated General Contractors of New York State President and CEO Mike Elmendorf said, “The men and women working out there on roadways across New York are doing it for our safety—and every New Yorker owes it to them to keep them safe as they do that important work.  They are out there working in often dangerous conditions to make sure we all get home safely to our families; it is the obligation of all motorists to make sure every one of them gets home safely to theirs.  New Yorkers need to pay attention, stay focused, slow down and move over in work zones.  AGC NYS commends the efforts of our industry, labor and public agency partners for providing critical awareness of work zone safety through National Work Zone Awareness Week and beyond.”

AAA Northeast Director of Public and Government Affairs and Traffic Safety Services John Corlett noted that April is also Distracted Driving Awareness Month and said, “The dangers our roadside workers face every day is compounded by distracted driving. The safety of the traveling public and roadside workers has always been a priority for AAA. Drivers need to fully focus on driving, put aside electronic devices, and hang up and drive.”