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Will Cameras Reduce Construction Accidents in Work Zones?

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The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) will add cameras to nine road construction sites across the city. The idea is to remind drivers of both the dangers of speeding in work sites and reinforce awareness of the need to obey the posted speed signs. The rollout of this construction accident prevention program coincides with National Work Zone Awareness Week.

In 2012, 16 workers were killed in New York road construction accidents, according to a spokesperson for the General Contractors Association of New York. At least one fatality occurred in New York City, and in the past two decades seven DOT workers have died in work zone accidents.

Nationwide, at least 130 road repair and other workers died in work zone accidents in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, local, state and federal numbers about work zone injuries and deaths vary, depending on the source of the information.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around half of the fatalities were the result of a worker being hit by a vehicle or mobile equipment. Backing construction vehicles, especially dump trucks, caused a majority of these fatalities.

There is good news about road construction accidents. The numbers have been decreasing steadily since the 1980s, even though the amount of roadwork and repair has increased somewhat. Why? Some reasons include better and more comprehensive planning that pays attention to safety issues; more emphasis on work zone management of traffic; and more use of data to understand when and why crashes occur.

Many states and cities have added surveillance cameras in recent years to address the problem of speeding in work zones. The NYC initiative will add nine camera-equipped trailers and cameras on DOT trucks. There will be speed boards to alert drivers of their speeds. Video footage will be used to identify drivers who violate the law.

Whether this will help remains to be seen, but based on the experiences of other jurisdiction, it could be just what the city needs to encourage people to drive more slowly and safely in construction zones.