SPRINGFIELD — As the 2013 construction season gets underway, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Illinois State Police (ISP), the Illinois Tollway and key highway safety partners today kicked off National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 15-19, an awareness campaign to get people to slow down and pay close attention to safety while driving in work zones.
This is part of an ongoing effort to reduce traffic related fatalities and serious injuries on Illinois roadways. The collaborative campaign raises awareness of “No Cell Phones in Work Zones”, and the “Move Over Law”, both designed to decrease the number and severity of crashes and save lives on Illinois roadways. Governor Pat Quinn recently signed a proclamation designating the month of April as “Work Zone Safety Month”.
“The Illinois Department of Transportation is committed to safety in our state’s work zones and educating the public about new and existing laws is crucial in increasing awareness and reducing the number of work zone crashes,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider. “Last year, 19 fatal crashes in work zones occurred across the state. IDOT and its partners are determined to help ensure that there are no more work zone fatalities, even one is one too many.”
Speed and inattentiveness are major contributing factors to work zone crashes. Conditions such as narrow or reduced lanes, edge drop offs, equipment next to moving lanes of traffic, and lane closures require reductions in speed to safely travel through work zones.
“Work zone crashes are avoidable when motorists respect the rules of the road and others working on the roads,” said Illinois State Police Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lemming. State police will be conducting enforcement missions to ensure that speed limits are followed and construction zones are safe and passable.”
Distracted driving laws prohibit the use of all hand-held electronic devices while driving in construction or school zones, including hand-held wireless telephone devices for all drivers, regardless of age. The use of electronic communications devices or any other electronic device, to text, e-mail, compose, read or send electronic messages or access internet sites while driving a motor vehicle at any time is prohibited.
“Work zone safety is critical for drivers and their families, and the men and women working on our roads,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. “The Illinois Tollway is investing $922 million in capital projects system-wide this year as part of the Move Illinois Program, including the rebuilding and widening of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) from Rockford to Elgin, so we need drivers to stay alert. Drivers must pay attention to workers and each other as they navigate work zones during this construction season.”
Under regulations that took effect in 2004, work zone speed fines are $375 for first-time offenders and $1,000 for second-time offenders, with the loss of their driver’s license for 90 days. If a motorist hits a worker, they face a $10,000 fine and up to 14 years in prison. Photo speed enforcement vans operated by State Police Troopers will be out in force again this year during construction season. The work zone fines apply to photo speed enforcement. Signs announcing the vans’ potential presence are posted prior to motorists entering the zone and a speed indicator board above the van gives the driver one last chance to slow down.
On average, there are over 7,000 work zone motor vehicle crashes in Illinois every year.
The 19 fatal work zone crashes in 2012, involved fatalities to 13 drivers, three passengers, and three pedestrians. Two of the pedestrians were workers.
This is the 12th year for Work Zone Awareness Week in Illinois, and several additional events are scheduled to promote safety. Beginning Monday April 15, in honor of Work Zone Safety Week, the top of the iconic Tribune Tower at 435 N. Michigan Avenue will light up Chicago’s skyline in orange. The Tower will be used to remind those traversing this high traffic area that work zones are dangerous and safe driving saves lives. Photo kiosks with interchangeable safety frames will be available to motorists at the same location to further stress the importance of safe driving in work zones.
On Friday, April 19, IDOT workers, along with State Police, the Tollway and local labor unions will be at rest stops statewide, reminding motorists to drive safely in work zones.
In an effort to reduce fatalities on roadways, Illinois has adopted an overall zero fatality goal as part of the Illinois Strategic Highway Plan that includes a reduction in work zone related fatalities with measureable targeted reductions every year. The agency’s goal is to have zero worker fatalities and reduce work zone crashes by five percent annually. To help achieve this goal, the agency recommends slowing down, obeying posted speed limits, putting down the cell phone and avoiding distraction in a work zone.
For more information regarding National Work Zone Awareness Week in Illinois, please visit http://www.dot.il.gov/safetyEng/wzawarenessweek.html.