New York State officials are warning of an alarming increase in reckless driving and crashes in highway work zones this year.
The Department of Transportation and State Police held a news conference Wednesday at the Interstate 81 Welcome Center in Kirkwood to spread the message that drivers need to be more careful and considerate when traveling through construction zones.
In particular, they want drivers to put down their phones and slow down.
The DOT brought a damaged attenuator for a visual example.
It was crushed earlier this year along Interstate 87 near Albany.
An attenuator is a safety device that is towed behind construction vehicles that absorbs the force of a collision, thereby protecting both the DOT workers and the driving public.
DOT officials say 20 of these attenuators have been crushed across the state so far this year.
And since the Prospect Mountain project in Binghamton began in 2012, a dozen attenuators have been struck.
John Howe is a Highway Maintenance Supervisor who was in a DOT pickup truck when it was struck along Route 201 in Johnson City back in May.
He says the crash changed his life.
“As I was getting ready to leave the site, another car was entering the site and was paying more attention to his tablet than he was to the road. My parked pickup truck was hit at about 65 mph and we were launched about 85 feet before we stopped. Our vehicles needed to be pried apart from one another as a result of how hard I was hit,” said Howe.
Howe suffered a concussion and injuries to his vertebrae.
While he’s back at work, he still requires medical attention on his neck.
Officials also report a steep increase in the number of people harassing and assaulting flag persons.
The DOT has launched a new awareness campaign called Flaggers Have Families Too.