PA 08-114—SB 285

Transportation Committee

Public Safety and Security Committee

Appropriations Committee

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING HIGHWAY WORK ZONE SAFETY

SUMMARY: This act creates two new offenses of (1) endangerment of a highway worker and (2) aggravated endangerment of a highway worker that apply when a driver commits certain acts in a highway work zone. It defines what constitutes a highway work zone and a highway worker. The latter generally includes both (1) people performing construction or maintenance activities and (2) public safety personnel working in the zone.

The act also creates a Highway Work Zone Advisory Council to recommend safety improvements in highway work zones.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2008

HIGHWAY WORK ZONE AND HIGHWAY WORKERS

“Highway Work Zone”

The act defines a highway work zone as an area of a state highway where construction, maintenance, or utility work is being performed. It requires such a zone to be marked by signs, channeling devices, barriers, pavement markings, or work vehicles. The highway work zone extends from the first warning sign or high intensity rotating, flashing, oscillating, or strobe lights on a vehicle to an “END ROAD WORK” sign or the last temporary traffic control device.

“Highway Worker”

Under the act, a highway worker is anyone required to perform his job on state roads, state bridges, or in highway work zones. A highway worker specifically includes:

1. someone who performs maintenance, repair, or construction of state bridges, state roads, shoulders, medians, and associated rights-of-way in highway work zones;

2. someone who operates a truck, loader, or other equipment on state roads and bridges or in highway work zones;

3. someone who performs any other related maintenance, as required, on state roads and bridges or in highway work zones;

4. a state or local public safety officer who enforces work zone-related transportation management and traffic control;

5. a state or local public safety officer who conducts traffic control or enforcement operations on state bridges and roads, shoulders, medians, and associated rights-of-way; and

6. a state or local public safety officer or firefighter, an emergency medical services provider, or any other authorized person who removes hazards from state roads and bridges, shoulders, medians, and associated rights-of-way, or who responds to accidents or incidents on state roads and bridges, shoulders, medians, associated rights-of-way, or in highway work zones.

ENDANGERMENT OF A HIGHWAY WORKER

Endangerment

The act creates the offenses of endangerment of a highway worker and aggravated endangerment of a highway worker. To commit the offense of endangerment of a highway worker, a motor vehicle operator must commit any of the following acts in a highway work zone:

1. exceeding the posted speed limit by 15 miles per hour or more;

2. failing to obey a traffic control device erected to control vehicle flow through the work zone for any reason other than an emergency, avoiding an obstacle, or protecting another person's health and safety;

3. driving through or around the zone in a lane not clearly designated for use by vehicles moving through or around the zone; or

4. physically assaulting, attempting to assault, or threatening to assault a highway worker with a motor vehicle or other instrument.

In order for someone to be cited or convicted for endangerment of a highway worker, at least one highway worker must be in the highway work zone in proximity to the area where the act occurs. If convicted, the offender is subject to a fine of up to $500 if no physical injury occurs or up to $1,000 if there is a physical injury. (see BACKGROUND).

Aggravated Endangerment

Under the act, someone commits the offense of aggravated endangerment of a highway worker when he is convicted of any of the aforementioned acts in a highway work zone and a highway worker is killed or seriously injured as a result. Conviction for the offense results in a fine of up to $5,000 if a highway worker is seriously injured and up to $10,000 if the worker is killed.

Exception

Someone cannot be cited or convicted for either of these offenses if his act or omission that otherwise would constitute an offense resulted, wholly or partially, from mechanical failure of the vehicle, or negligence of a highway worker or another person.

HIGHWAY WORK ZONE SAFETY ADVISORY COUNCIL

The act establishes a Highway Work Zone Advisory Council made up of the commissioners of transportation, public safety, and motor vehicles, or their designees; the presidents of the Connecticut Employees Union Independent and the Connecticut State Police Union, or their designees, and a representative of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association designated by the association's president.

The appointees must have knowledge and experience concerning highway work zones. Appointments must be made by November 1, 2008. The governor appoints the council's chairperson who must convene the council's first meeting by December 1, 2008.

The act requires the council to make ongoing recommendations to improve safety for highway workers, public safety officers, and drivers in highway work zones. The council must study and review:

1. current work design and safety protocols,

2. effective highway work zone design and safety protocols in other states,

3. implementing technology to improve zone safety,

4. using public safety officers to improve zone safety and available federal funding for work zone training and enforcement, and

5. other issues the council deems appropriate.

The act requires the council to meet at least quarterly and to report its recommendations to the transportation commissioner and Transportation Committee annually by January 15th.

BACKGROUND

Physical Injury and Serious Physical Injury

The law defines “physical injury” as an impairment of physical condition or pain. It defines “serious physical injury” as physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or that causes serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious loss or impairment of the function of a bodily organ (CGS 53a-3).

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