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Work Zone Accidents

Hundreds of people are killed in work zones annually in the United States. In 2020, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reported 857 fatalities related to work zone accidents, up from 845 the year prior.

Work zone accidents occur quickly and can be catastrophic for unprotected and unsuspecting construction and highway workers. These workers are already at an elevated risk of work-related injuries simply due to the nature of their job. The added possibility of cars slamming into their worksite is not a hazard they should be worried about.

Most work zone accidents are caused by two driving errors: driver inattention and speeding. Both behaviors are preventable, and it’s up to all New Yorkers to understand the driver laws made to protect work zones and the common accidents that continue to occur, putting workers at risk. 

The Facts About Work Zone Accidents

In 2021, the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) reported 203 work zone crashes on state roads and bridges, resulting in 48 serious injuries. Thankfully, none of these accidents resulted in fatalities, but that hasn’t always been the case.

Work zones in New York City are chaotic and expose workers first-hand to the dangers of high-speed and congested traffic. To help protect these workers, the NYS Move Over Law requires that all motorists slow down as they approach work zones and move over one lane (if safely possible) to ensure enough space for workers to do their job.

The Move Over Law applies whenever you see the following:

  • Tow trucks
  • Emergency vehicles (ambulances, police, fire trucks)
  • Highway construction vehicles and standing worksites
  • Maintenance vehicles

Unfortunately, drivers do not always slow down or move over when they are supposed to. Failing to comply with the Move Over Law can lead to a first-time offense of $150 or additional civil and even criminal charges if a serious accident occurs.

Causes of Work Zone Accidents in NYS

Two main factors consistently leading to work zone accidents are driver inattention and speeding. Both behaviors are also leading factors in most motor vehicle accidents and are preventable when safe driving habits are practiced.

Driver Inattention

Driver inattention, also called distracted driving, includes any act other than driving that takes a driver’s eyes off the road. Common distractions include cell phone use, GPS navigation, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, reaching for things in the front or backseat, or performing other personal care behaviors. It can also include daydreaming, as many drivers report experiencing it when driving on highways or in traffic for long periods.


Speeding is the most dangerous form of aggressive driving and was present in 32% of work zone accidents in 2020, as reported by the FHWA. Not only does speeding increase the chance of an accident, but it also elevates the severity of injuries. Most work zones will double fines when drivers are caught speeding, but this means little to the victims of a work zone accident when life-threatening and fatal injuries occur.

How To Prevent Work Zone Accidents

The most important thing New York drivers can do to prevent work zone accidents is to pay attention and be vigilant. Here are a few ways to start:

  • Watch for work zones and other roadside incidents whenever on the road.
  • Make sure to slow down and get over when possible to allow road workers enough room to do their work safely.
  • Follow all local and state traffic laws for safe driving.
  • Adhere to all traffic cones and detours as instructed at the posted speed limits.
  • Never try to swerve through or around other vehicles to avoid traffic.
  • Watch for flaggers first and give them plenty of room.

It’s up to all New Yorkers to use caution and to help protect everyone on the road from preventable harm. There’s no excuse for work zone accidents that occur from incidents of reckless driving. New York drivers are responsible for preventing harm to others on the road. When injuries occur due to negligence, reckless drivers must be held accountable.

At the law firm of Pazer Epstein Jaffe Fein & Gozenput, P.C., we have been fighting for New York City workers and victims of construction accidents for over 60 years. If you or a loved one has sustained a serious injury due to the negligence of another, our experienced trial attorneys are here to help. To speak to one of our attorneys for a free consultation, please fill out our online form or call 212-227-1212.

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