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They may look like road workers but they could be cops

Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 5:28 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 17, 2020 at 11:00 AM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - Road construction is moving ahead full speed across our region but drivers hitting those construction zones need to reduce their speed. Now, a special operation in New York’s North Country is targeting dangerous drivers. Our Kelly O’Brien hit the road to tell you about Operation Hard Hat.

If you traveled down Interstate 87 southbound by Exit 36 Thursday, you probably noticed the roadwork.

"We're installing new guardrails down through the median," said Dean DeWitt of the New York Department of Transportation. "It's a new federal highway mandate."

But you may have missed two DOT workers who are actually undercover troopers with the state police.

"They blend in with the construction workers and they are able to spot violations that typically a trooper may not," Sgt. Shane Buckley said.

State Police and the Department of Transportation have teamed up for Operation Hard Hat, bringing awareness to drivers and the dangers road crews face in work zones.

Operation Hard Hat in underway once again. The State Police will be posing as construction workers in our work zones this construction season targeting reckless drivers. https://on.ny.gov/2Cakymz

Posted by New York State Department of Transportation on Tuesday, July 14, 2020

"Sixty-five miles an hour and you're standing next to a barrel and that's the only thing protecting you, that's not really protecting you. I've seen in the past where barrels have been hit, people have been hit. It's very dangerous out here," DeWitt said.

The State Police Traffic Incident Management Unit or TIM Unit works with DOT road crews five days a week. Buckley says the undercover troopers are looking for speeding, drivers not wearing their seat belts or drivers who are distracted by their cellphones. Fines are doubled for any violation made in a work zone.

"It's very common. It's very dangerous in a lot of aspects," Buckley said.

The way the operation works is the two undercover troopers are in front of the work zone, one trooper checking for speeding while the other trooper is visually looking for distracted drivers or drivers not wearing their seat belts. If they catch someone in violation, they radio the info to troopers waiting down the road. Those troopers will pull the car over and see if a ticket is warranted.

"The traveling public needs to be aware that these things are in place for a reason. If there is a reduce speed, that reduce speed is there to protect the workers, it's there because there is possibly equipment moving in and out of the lane closure," Buckley said.

The DOT asks drivers to pay attention and take their time as they travel through the mile of roadwork.

"We're trying to make things better for you out here, so five minutes of your time will make it a lot safer for us," DeWitt said.

Undercover operations similar to this one will continue through the rest of the year.

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