CHICAGO – As states around the country look to emulate Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s Administration’s success in reducing highway work zone fatalities, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Illinois State Police (ISP) hosted a highway safety workshop for those who are considering following the lead of Illinois’ photo speed enforcement program.
IDOT hosted the event at ISP’s District Chicago headquarters in Des Plaines on September 29 and today, September 30 at the request of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Six other states joined
Illinois for the workshop including Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee and Washington.
“In the last four years, we have succeeded in making our highway work zones safer for workers and all the people who drive through them,” said Governor Blagojevich. “One of the keys to this success has been the photo speed enforcement vans that have deployed by IDOT and the Illinois State Police.”
The use of mobile photo speed enforcement was one of the strategies recommended by a Work Zone Safety Task Force convened by Governor Blagojevich in 2003 in response to an alarming spike in work zone fatalities.
Governor Blagojevich in August unveiled a proposal to expand the use of photo speed enforcement on a statewide basis on Illinois’ interstate highways. State transportation officials are currently drafting legislation
that would put this proposal into practice.
“Saving lives on our highways has been a major priority for IDOT under the Administration of Governor Blagojevich,” said IDOT Secretary Milton R. Sees. “One area where we have had success is in reducing the number of fatalities in work zones, thanks in large part to the aggressive use of mobile photo enforcement by our partners in the Illinois State Police.”
“With the addition of this new technology, we have seen a significant decline in the number of work zone injuries and fatalities,” said Illinois State Police Director Larry G. Trent. “Though we strive for voluntary compliance and encourage motorists to obey work zone speed limits, photo enforcement vans will continue to be deployed in an effort to protect workers. Motorists who fail to reduce their speed in work zones where workers are present can expect to receive a citation in the mail that carries a minimum fine of $375.”
The Governor’s Work Zone Safety Task Force convened in 2003 also recommended better defined and more consistent looking work zones and stiffer penalties for speeding in a work zone.
From a high of 44 work zone fatalities, including five workers, in 2003, the state recorded 38 work zone fatalities, including 2 workers, in 2004; 25, including one worker, in 2005; 29, including one worker, in 2006; and 21, including two workers, in 2007.
Arizona recently passed legislation to authorize photo enforcement on its highways and Arizona officials will be discussing their program at the meeting.
The workshop will also feature a report from a University of Illinois traffic safety researcher who led a study that found the marked white photo enforcement vans were the most the effective tool for reducing the speed of vehicles in work zones. On average, when vans were present, cars reduced their speed by 7.87 miles per hour and trucks reduced their speed by 4.54 miles per hour.
Photo speed enforcement vans operated by State Troopers were deployed for the first time in the 2006 construction season. They are used in work zones where workers are present.
The photo speed enforcement vans are equipped with 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 and court appearance is mandatory. Under the toughened work zone speeding fines that took effect in 2004, 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 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 shifts, pavement edge drop-offs, closed shoulders and lane closures. Driving at slower speeds allows motorists more time to react to changed conditions.