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New Jersey State Policy Construction Unit: Partners in Highway Safety

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 29 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2002 Pages: 20-22,24,27
Christa Miller
Date Published
September 2002
7 pages
This article discusses a New Jersey program that addresses the increase in highway construction-related injuries and fatalities.
In 1998, Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) for road, bridge, and other highway repair. Since then, the number of motor vehicle-related fatalities occurring in highway work zones has increased sharply. Highway construction is a hazardous occupation; some injuries and fatalities result from traffic crashes, while others occur because of falls, over-exertion, or workers being struck by objects. New Jersey is one of the most traffic-congested States in the Nation. New Jersey State transportation and safety agencies have designed a unique approach to these trends with the cooperation of the State Police, Department of Transportation (DOT), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Rutgers University, several labor unions, and the Utilities and Transportation Contractors Association (UTCA). The New Jersey Work Zone Safety Partnership ensures safety to motorists, pedestrians, and workers that use the State’s highways. The State Police Construction Unit is comprised of full-time, DOT-funded State troopers that specialize in work zone safety. The unit’s twofold mission is traffic enforcement and worker protection. As a result of the presence of these troopers, no fatalities occurred in work zones in 2001. Worker protection is grounded less in traditional law enforcement and more in community policing. Cruisers provide a buffer between workers and traffic when setting up and maintaining temporary signs and signals, and when opening and closing roadways. The troopers educate workers on site about State and Federal safety regulations. Worker feedback has shown that where officers were present, construction workers felt safer. Contractors are required to create a Traffic Control Plan (TCP), a blueprint of the roadway that will include the work zone. Troopers only deal with immediate hazards; they don’t conduct full site inspections that OSHA compliance officers perform. 4 figures