Law enforcement officials are reminding motorists to remain alert to a law that targets motorists who are caught speeding past sanitation collection trucks. Motorists that ignore the law face jail time or a fine of up to $100, officials said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the “Slow Down to Get Around” bill into law last summer, requiring motorists to reduce their speed when passing city and privately owned refuse and recycling vehicles with flashing lights.
Trucks included in the new law are classified as “any motor vehicle with a rear compaction function that is intended for the collection of refuse.”
By classifying garbage trucks and waste collection vehicles as “hazard vehicles,” New York is now the 12th state to enact the safety law that amends the preexisting “Move Over” law.
The Move Over law, effective in 2012, requires motorists to slow down and safely move over when passing a construction zone or public safety vehicle with flashing lights, on either side of the road, not just one’s right.
The law recognizes both city and private sanitation vehicles as “hazard vehicles,” putting them in the same category as police cars and FDNY vehicles. Bureau of Labor statistics show that garbage collection is the fifth most dangerous job in the US, with 35 fatalities per 100 people reported each year.
Department of Sanitation (DSNY) officials applauded the law saying, “Sanitation workers face incredible dangers every day, working to collect more than 11,000 tons of garbage and recycling from city residents, agencies and institutions. This law requires motorists to slow down and use caution when passing collection trucks.”
Frank Justich, one of Long Island City’s most well liked sanitation workers, was assigned to the Queens West 1 garage on 21st Street on January 26, 2010 when he was struck by a tractor-trailer on Ditmars Boulevard and 35th Street.
Justich, 41, was emptying a trash bin at Ditmars Boulevard and 35th Street when the tractor-trailer made a wide turn onto the boulevard, pinning Justich to a collection truck. The father of two young girls was rushed to Mount Sinai Queens, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
The Queens West 1 garage on 34th Avenue and 21st Street in Long Island City was renamed in honor of Justich in 2011.
Another similar law that has been in effect for more than a year protects city sanitation workers from assault by enraged motorists.
Under the law, impatient motorists who find themselves stuck behind city Department of Sanitation trucks making curbside pickups face stiff penalties if they take out their frustration on the sanitation engineer.
The law increased the penalty for assaulting a uniformed city sanitation collector from a misdemeanor to a felony assault – the same penalty faced by people who assault a police officer or firefighter.
“We want to let everyone know we’re not going to be punching bags out on the streets anymore,” a spokesperson for the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association said in a prepared statement.
Union officials said there were 42 reported assaults on sanitation workers in 2014, up from 17 assaults in 2013, most of which involved motorists who became enraged when they had to wait a few minutes while DSNY trucks made their way along local streets.
“Some of these people go nuts, jump from their cars and punch us out,” a frustrated collector said. “They don’t want to understand that we’re doing our job,” the worker said. “It’s not our fault that these people pull up behind the truck while we’re making a collection.”
Under the increased penalties, anyone who assaults a DSNY collector or driver will be arrested and could face up to seven years in jail.