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‘Keep them safe’: NY governor announces measure to protect highway workers

Photo: New York City Department of Transportation

Albany, NY — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has included a measure in his Fiscal Year 2021 Executive Budget that would impose tougher criminal penalties for violent acts against highway workers.

Under the Slow Down and Look Out for Highway Workers and Pedestrians Act of 2020 (SLOW Act), a violent act against highway workers, vehicle inspectors or motor carrier investigators – currently a third-degree assault, which is a Class A misdemeanor – would be considered a second-degree assault, a Class D felony.

The proposed bill also would:

  • Create a new crime of “menacing a highway worker” when a person intentionally places or attempts to place a highway worker in fear of death or physical injury. A violation would be a Class E felony.
  • Impose an immediate six-month suspension of driver’s licenses for anyone convicted of a first-, second- or third-degree assault against a highway worker, or convicted of menacing a highway worker.
  • Create a new crime of “intrusion into an active work zone.” A violation, a Class B misdemeanor, would be punishable by a fine of $250 to $500 and/or up to three months in jail.
  • Clarify the responsibility of a driver involved in a minor incident to move his or her vehicle out of the way of traffic to allow for a “broader range of responders who could remove vehicles and debris from the roadway.”

More than 900 work zone intrusions and violent incidents toward highway workers have been reported in New York state over the past five years, according to a Feb. 4 press release from the governor’s office. Additionally, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 124 workers were killed in work zones nationwide in 2018, and an average of 132 work zone employees were killed on the job annually from 2015 to 2018.


“Highway workers have a tough job, often having to work in rough weather and under tough circumstances to keep our roads and bridges in good repair,” Cuomo said in the release, “and we need to do everything in our power to keep them safe in the field. With the SLOW Act, New York is cracking down on violent or negligent acts against highway workers, protecting their personal safety and our roadways.”

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