SPRINGFIELD - Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Acting Secretary Milt Sees and Illinois State Police (ISP) Director Larry Trent are warning drivers to be alert and slow down in work zones as the 2007 highway construction season kicks off. For the second year, State Troopers will be enforcing Illinois’ tough work zone speeding law with photo enforcement vans that snap photos of speeding cars.
Also this year, Dunkin’ Donuts will be honoring and thanking road construction workers across Illinois during Work Zone Safety Week by offering free coffee to construction and maintenance workers outfitted in lime green safety vests on Friday, April 6.
“April is the month when highway construction gets underway and we want the public to know that it is critical that they slow down and be on the lookout for workers and equipment in these work zones,” said IDOT Acting Sec. Milt Sees. “Our goal is to protect the lives of both the many dedicated workers who are improving our roadways, as well as drivers and passengers traveling through work zones. Thanks to strict enforcement by the State Police, we have been making steady progress in reducing work zone fatalities in Illinois.”
Since Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation in 2004 that toughened work zone speeding fines to $375 for a first offense, the number of work zone fatalities went from a total of 44 fatalities, including five workers, in 2003, to a total of 28 fatalities last year, including one worker.
“We know that driving too fast for conditions is one of the biggest contributors to crashes in general and work zone crashes in particular,” said ISP Director Larry Trent. “Photo enforcement has given us an additional tool for enforcing work zone speed limits and drivers across the state should expect aggressive enforcement – whether it is by photo enforcement, regular patrol cars or our Motorcycle unit.”
Trent also noted that ISP will also be strictly enforcing Scott’s law violations, which make it an offense if a driver fails to slow down and if possible change lanes when police squad cars or other emergency vehicles with flashing lights are on the shoulder.
In recognition of the hazards faced daily by road construction workers, Dunkin' Donuts stores throughout the state of Illinois will give away free coffee to all construction workers and other personnel wearing lime green safety vests on Friday, April 6, as part of the company's "Thanking Those Who Serve" program.
“The men and women who work to re-build our roads do a great job of making the roads safe and suitable for all of us,” said Kathy Nowicki, field marketing manager for Dunkin' Donuts. “These people work long hours, often in less than desirable weather and conditions. They deserve our support and extra attention when we're out on the roads. Inviting them into our stores for free coffee on Friday is our way of honoring and thanking road construction personnel and calling attention to the important job they do.”
In Illinois, there are an average of 6,700 crashes in highway work zones every year, resulting in approximately 2,800 injuries. Governor Rod R. Blagojevich convened a Work Zone Safety Task Force in the fall of 2003, which made a number of recommendations to improve highway work zone safety; including better defined and more consistent looking work zones, stiffer penalties and photo enforcement of speed limits within work zones.
Photo enforcement vans operated by State Troopers were deployed for the first time last year. Three vans were active at various locations throughout the state and Troopers issued over 4,000 citations. A fourth van will be added to further expand the program later this year.
The marked white photo enforcement vans are equipped with the latest in photo radar technology designed to record the speed of vehicles and to capture clear images of the driver and the license plate. Tickets are sent by certified mail to drivers within 14 business days. Under the toughened work zone speeding fines that took effect last year, first time offenders face a $375 fine; second time offenders face a $1,000 fine and the loss of their drivers license for 90 days.
The vans are staffed by specially trained State Troopers. They are used in work zones where workers are present. Signs will be placed in project locations where photo enforcement will be occurring.
These vans are an additional state of the art enforcement tool that helps reduce fatalities in work zones. Motorists, as well as workers, are at risk when driving in work zones due to configurations that include narrower lanes, lane jogs and dips, closed shoulders and lane closures. Driving at slower speeds allows motorists more time to react to changed conditions.
IDOT personnel and State Troopers will be stepping up their work zone safety outreach efforts this Friday, April 6, by passing out leaflets to travelers at Interstate rest areas across the state.
IDOT and ISP will be holding media availabilities from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday at the following five rest areas:
Northbound I-57 Trail of Tears rest area, at mile marker # 32, in Union County.
1. Eastbound I-64 Gateway rest area, at mile marker #25, in Metro East.
2. Northbound I-55 Railsplitter rest area, at mile marker # 104, Springfield.
3. Eastbound I-74 Mackinaw Dells rest area, at mile marker 114, near Bloomington.
4. Southbound I-39/90 Turtle Creek Welcome Center/Rest Area, at mile marker # 2, near Rockford.
For more information about these events, contact either IDOT or ISP press officers.