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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACTS:
April 4, 2006 Matt Vanover (IDOT) 217-558-0517
Mike Claffey (IDOT) 312-814-3957
Marisa Kollias (IDOT) 312-814-4693
Lincoln Hampton (ISP) 312-814-8367
Rick Hector (ISP) 217-782-6637

Motorists Urged to Use Caution as Highway Construction Season Kicks Off

6,700 Work Zone Crashes a Year; Photo Enforcement Vans to Hit the Highways Soon

SPRINGFIELD - Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Secretary Timothy W. Martin joined Illinois State Police (ISP) Director Larry Trent urging motorists to use caution and slow down in work zones as highway construction season officially kicks off for this year. IDOT and State Police are participating with the Laborer’s International Union in observing National Work Zone Safety Week, which runs April 3-9.

“April is when highway construction really kicks into high gear and we need motorists to be watching out for and slowing down in our work zones,” said IDOT Secretary Timothy W. Martin. “Our goal is to protect the lives of both the many dedicated workers out there trying to improve our highways, as well as drivers and passengers traveling through work zones.”

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.

“The people working on these roads are our family,” said Edward M. Smith, Vice President, Regional Manager and Assistant to the General President, Laborers International Union of North America. “We’re asking motorists to drive through work zones as if their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers are working in these areas.”

The state made progress in reducing the number of work zone fatalities in 2005, thanks in part to toughened work zone speeding fines and to a public education campaign mounted by IDOT, State Police and their highway safety partners. There were 26 fatalities in work zones in 2005, including one worker. There were 38 work zone fatalities in 2004, including two workers, and 44 such fatalities in 2003, including five workers.

“We know that driving too fast for conditions is one of the biggest contributors to crashes in general. Driving too fast in the work zones further exacerbates an already dangerous situation,” ISP Director Larry Trent said. “In the next few weeks ISP will be deploying our latest tools for bringing speed under control, our photo speed enforcement vans.”

The marked white 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 – regardless of the time of day or weather conditions. Tickets will be sent by certified mail to drivers within six 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.

These vans are an additional state of the art enforcement tool that will be used to help 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. At least 85 percent of the fatalities in work zones involve motorists.

The vans will be staffed by specially trained State Troopers. They will be used in work zones where workers are present, beginning in Northeastern Illinois within the next few weeks and downstate later this year. Signs will be placed in project locations where photo enforcement will be occurring. The Troopers will also be responsible for court appearances for the tickets.

On Friday, April 7, IDOT and the Laborers International Union will team up to host Work Zone Safety Week events at rest areas throughout the state. Laborers and IDOT staff will provide information about the importance of slowing down in a highway work zone, enforcement and penalties. They will be at rest areas near Bloomington, Springfield, Rockford, Marion and the Metro East area from 10am-4pm.

 

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