SPRINGFIELD – As the 2009 highway construction season gets underway, Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig announced that work zone fatalities are down 29.6 percent compared to 2003. Aggressive law enforcement and education campaigns and significant improvements to work zone safety traffic control reduced Illinois work zone fatalities from 44 in 2003, including 5 workers, to provisionally 31 with 2 workers killed in 2008.
At events in Chicago, Champaign, Metro East and Rock Island, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Illinois State Police (ISP), the Illinois Tollway reminded drivers to slow down and be alert in work zones. Work zone safety advocates will conduct outreach activities at rest areas across the state on Friday as part of the 10th Anniversary of National Work Zone Awareness Week which runs April 6-10, 2009.
“Thanks to strict enforcement by ISP and cooperation from the public, we have made steady progress in protecting people in work zones,” said Acting Secretary Hannig. “Our goal is to protect the lives of the many dedicated workers who are improving our roadways, as well as drivers and passengers traveling through work zones.”
Following an alarming spike in work zone fatalities in 2003, the State of Illinois convened a Work Zone Safety Task Force which recommended a number of steps to reduce work zone crashes and improve highway work zone safety; including stiffer penalties for speeding in a work zone and photo enforcement of speed limits within work zones. From the high 44 work zone fatalities, including five workers, in 2003, the state recorded 38 work zone fatalities, including two workers, in 2004; 25, including one worker, in 2005; 29, including one worker, in 2006; and 21, including two workers, in 2007. 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 Illinois State Police is committed to ensuring the safety of workers and motorists during the upcoming construction season," said Acting ISP Director Jonathon E. Monken. "Troopers will be strictly enforcing work zone speed limits and the "move over" law which requires motorists to slow down and, if possible, change lanes when approaching police, emergency or construction vehicles displaying flashing warning lights. We will continue to utilize tools, such as the Motorcycle Enforcement Bureau and photo enforcement, to help reduce injuries and fatalities on our roadways."
“When you see a work zone, slow down and drive with caution, said John Penn, Vice President and Regional Manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. “The men and women working in construction zones have families to go home to and we want to urge everyone to drive through work zones as if one of these workers were members of your family.”
“Enforcement efforts by the ISP have played a critical role in keeping workers and motorists safe during the massive roadway rebuilding and widening projects underway across the 286-mile Illinois Tollway system,” said Illinois Tollway Acting Executive Director Michael T. King. “By the end of this construction season, the Illinois Tollway will have completed more than 80 percent of the $6.3 billion Congestion-Relief Program improvements. We thank drivers for slowing down and paying attention in work zones over the past four years and ask for their patience and cooperation again this year.”
In Illinois, there are, on average, more than 7,000 crashes in highway work zones every year, resulting in approximately 2,600 injuries.
Photo speed enforcement vans operated by State Police Troopers were deployed for the first time in the 2006 construction season. Four vans will be active this construction season at various locations throughout the state. Troopers have issued over 7,200 citations since implementation of the program.
The marked white photo speed 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 and court appearance is mandatory.
The vans are staffed by specially trained State Police Troopers and are used in work zones where workers are present. Signs will be placed in project locations where photo speed 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 can 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.
For more information on work zone safety week log onto http://www.dot.il.gov/safetyEng/wzawarenessweek.html