The New York State Police, the state Department of Transportation, and the Thruway Authority have announced that state police and local law enforcement agencies issued a record number of tickets during 2021’s Operation Hardhat.
The joint initiative seeks to crack down on work-zone violations and highlights the importance of safe driving when encountering construction, maintenance and emergency operations along state highways.
“We are committed to making sure our roadways are safe, not only for those who travel them but also for those who work on them,” said New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen. “Each day, law enforcement and other emergency responders, including highway workers, work in a dangerous environment and risk their lives to keep the travelling public safe. It is important that motorists are aware of their responsibility to follow the rules of the road and know that violations of the Move Over Law and work zone intrusions will not be tolerated.”
A total of 2,336 tickets were issued during Operation Hardhat details this year, breaking the previous record of 2,018 tickets set during 2020. The new record comes as New York state continues to experience an alarming number of work-zone intrusions and further highlights the need for motorists to slow down and drive carefully through work zones.
“The safety of our DOT family is always top priority, and I am so thankful to the women and men in law enforcement for the work they do to help keep our crews safe,” Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said. “Day after day our highway crews work in dangerous conditions so that the rest of us can travel through our great state safely. It is on motorists to stay alert, put down their cell phones, obey speed limits and drive safely through these work zones so that our road crews can do their jobs and go home to their families.”
During Operation Hardhat, members of law enforcement patrol the Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority work zones to enforce work zone speed limits and ensure that motorists are obeying flagging personnel.
Of the 2,336 tickets issued during 2021, 2,201 were issued by the state police, a significant increase from the 1,803 issued by troopers in 2020. Another 135 tickets were issued by local law enforcement agencies, including the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, the Utica Police Department and the NYPD.
“It’s imperative that motorists obey posted speed limits and stay alert when driving through work zones,” Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said. “As these results from Operation Hard Hat indicate, too many motorists are speeding and driving distracted when travelling through work zones and putting lives at risk. We thank our partners at New York State Police Troop T for keeping the Thruway safe and protecting the lives of motorists and our workers.”
Tickets issued in 2021 included the following violations: speeding – 855; cell phone – 434; seatbelts – 254; failure to move over – 167; failure to obey flagger – 1; failure to obey traffic control device – 4; and other violations – 621
Operation Hardhat details resulted in violations in almost every region of the state, including Hudson Valley – 326; Long Island – 311; Capital Region – 263; Central New York – 196; Southern Tier – 490; Mohawk Valley – 251; Western New York – 99; North Country – 67; New York State Thruway – 135; and New York City – 16.
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.
In September, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation that authorized a pilot program 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.
At the 2021 Great New York State Fair, Hochul, DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez and Thruway Authority Director Matt Driscoll unveiled a Highway Workers Memorial to honor transportation workers who lost their lives on the job. This permanent exhibit is located just outside the Exposition Center at the fairgrounds, serving as a reminder of the individuals whose necessary but dangerous work resulted in the ultimate sacrifice, and that motorists have a responsibility to drive safely through work zones.
Motorists are reminded to Move Over a lane, if safely possible, or slow down significantly whenever encountering roadside vehicles displaying red, white, blue, amber or green lights, including maintenance and construction vehicles in work zones. Motorists are urged to slow down and drive responsibly in work zones. Fines are doubled for speeding in a work zone. Convictions of two or more speeding violations in a work zone could result in the suspension of an individual’s driver’s license.