Illinois Department of Transportation, Erica Borggren, Acting Secretary
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2005 
CONTACTS:
Cheryle Jackson 312/814.3158
Abby Ottenhoff 312/814.3158
Rebecca Rausch 217/782.7355
Gerardo Cardenas 312/814.3158
Matt Vanover 217/836.2267(IDOT)
Lincoln Hampton 312/446.1676 (ISP)

IDOT, Tollway and State Police Warn Drivers to Prepare for
Highway Construction Season

New tools this year include increased fines, loss of license and photo enforcement

CHICAGO—The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) joined with the State Police and Illinois Tollway to remind motorists construction season is about to kick in to gear and warn that tough new laws are on the books that target drivers who flout work zone speed limits and endanger the lives of construction workers and other drivers.

“Next week is Work Zone Safety Week and the traditional beginning to highway construction season. We want to send a message to motorists now to slow down in work zones,” IDOT Secretary Timothy W. Martin said. “If you are caught speeding in a work zone, at minimum you will be looking at a fine of $375, at worst, you can kill yourself, a loved one or a worker.”

Under enhanced penalties passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rod Blagojevich last year, first-time work zone speeders, including those caught on camera, will be hit with a fine of $375, with $125 of that sum going to pay off-duty State Troopers to provide added enforcement in construction or maintenance zones. Two-time offenders are subject to a $1,000 fine, including a $250 surcharge to hire Troopers, and the loss of their license for 90 days.

Starting in July, State Troopers will deploy specially equipped vans that can take photographs of drivers speeding in IDOT and Tollway construction and maintenance zones. Tickets will be issued by mail to vehicle owners.

In addition, drivers who hit a worker are subject for up to a $10,000 fine and 14 years in prison.

"Preventing the accidents and injuries caused by crashes occurring in work zones is a significant responsibility for the Illinois State Police," said ISP Director Larry Trent. “We must protect these workers who ultimately make all of us safer by improving our roadways. Troopers assigned to work zone details will take a zero tolerance approach when issuing citations to speed limit violators. The message is clear -- Slow down; we're serious about workzone safety."

Gov. Blagojevich has set of goal of reducing traffic deaths to fewer than 1,000 a year by 2008. The work zone speeding crackdown is just one of the ways state transportation and law enforcement are working together to accomplish that goal.

According to provisional data from 2004, 39 people were killed in work zones last year, with two of them being workers. In 2003, 44 people were killed in work zones, with 5 being workers.

“Since the Tollway just launched our $5.3 billion Congestion Relief Plan, drivers will see more work zones on the Tollway than they have in the past. We’re doing our part to ensure construction areas are well marked and that drivers are well informed as they travel through our construction areas,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Jack Hartman. “But impatience, speeding and driver inattention are the leading factors in work zone crashes, so we need drivers to slow down and stay alert in work zones for their safety as well as our workers.”

Under the provisions of the Automated Traffic Control Systems in Highway Construction or Maintenance Zones Act of 2004, Illinois State Police were given the authority to use cameras to enforce work zone speed limits in cases where workers are present. It also requires that signs be posted when work zone speed limits are being enforced by camera.

Photo enforcement vans will be equipped with cameras designed to record a clear image of the vehicle and driver, it’s speed, and registration plate. The registered owner will not be liable if someone else is driving the vehicle.

Photo speed enforcement will be taking place at various construction zones around the state, including on the Dan Ryan and Kingery projects and Tollway projects in the Chicago area as well as various downstate projects.

IDOT and Tollway officials stressed the importance of complying with work zone speed limits even when workers are not present because of the dangers posed by features such as narrow lanes, lane jogs, reduced shoulder width, obstructions and drop-offs.

IDOT and Tollway staffers will be conducting an outreach effort directed at members of the driving public on Friday, April 1, at highway rest stops and Tollway oases around the state.

The increased work zone speeding penalties and photo speed enforcement are just two of the recommendations of the Work Zone Safety Task Force assembled by Governor Blagojevich in 2003. Other recommendations of the Task Force, comprised of members from IDOT, Illinois State Police, the Tollway, Federal Highway Administration, labor and industry representatives include:

 

  • Better defined work zones—projects on multi-lane highways have signs better identifying the appropriate speed in a particular work zone and also when it is safe to resume normal speed.
  • Modified driver education curriculum—A compact disc and teaching manuals have been mailed to more than 1,500 high schools and private driver education facilities.
  •  New Signage—A new sign has been developed and is being placed at projects throughout the state publicizing work zone related penalties, “Hit a worker, $10,000 fine, 14 years in jail”.
  •  Enhanced use of stationary and portable changeable message boards in and around work zones.
  • More consistent looking work zones.
  • Remote controlled flaggers—IDOT is using federal research funds to test 20 newly developed remote flagger workstations.
  • “Trooper in a Truck”—allowing state police to covertly enforce speed limits, out-of-uniform and in IDOT trucks.
  • Trooper Hire-back—$4.7 million has been identified to fund additional troopers in work zones throughout the state. Additional troopers allow state police to deploy work zone details in areas of heightened concern.
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