National Work Zone Awareness Week
Published on April 7 2014 6:17 pm
Last Updated on April 7 2014 6:17 pm
Written by Greg Sapp
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Illinois State Police (ISP), the Illinois Tollway and key highway safety partners today kicked off National Work Zone Awareness week, which runs April 7 - 11, to encourage motorists to slow down and drive safely on Illinois roadways, especially in work zones.
The collaborative campaign raises awareness of "No Cell Phones in Work Zones", and the "Move Over Law," both designed to decrease the number and severity of crashes and save lives on Illinois roadways. Governor Pat Quinn recently signed a proclamation designating the month of April as "Work Zone Safety Month."
"Workers are busy this season making our roads better and safer, and I urge motorists keep them safe by slowing down and paying attention in work zones," Governor Quinn said. "We all benefit when our working men and women have a safe workplace, whether alongside the road, in a factory or in an office."
"With an active construction season set to take place this year, we want to ensure motorists are taking it slow, not texting and driving, using cell phones while driving only if they are hands-free, and not using phones at all in work zones," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider. "Driving can be extremely dangerous if motorists are not cautious, so please help us reduce the number of severe crashes and Drive Zero Fatalities to a Reality." Speed and inattentiveness are major contributing factors to work zone crashes. All motorists need to be extra careful when driving through a work zone.
Roadway conditions can change quickly and motorists need to be able to react appropriately. Traffic can be slowed down or stopped well outside of the actual work area. Conditions such as narrow or reduced lanes, edge drop offs, equipment next to moving lanes of traffic, and lane closures require reductions in speed to safely travel through work zones.
"Illinois State police officers are launching safety awareness campaigns with IDOT for the upcoming road construction season to encourage motorists to move over and reduce speeds when approaching construction zones on Illinois highways," said State Police Col. Todd Kilby. "Work zone crashes can have tragic consequences for workers, first responders and the motoring public when drivers are not alert, and paying attention to the warning signs and rules of
New distracted driving laws prohibit the use of all hand-held electronic devices while driving on all public roads in Illinois all the time, which includes work zones. The use of electronic communications devices or any other electronic device, to text, e-mail, compose, read or send electronic messages or access internet sites while driving a motor vehicle at any time is also prohibited.
"Nothing is more important than the safety of motorists and the men and women working on our roads," said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. "It's especially important for motorists to obey the 'Move Over Law' by
slowing down and changing lanes if possible when approaching police or other emergency vehicles stopped along the roadway. Illinois State Police and Tollway roadway maintenance workers are the first on the scene to help drivers in need, so we ask that drivers please proceed with caution around emergency vehicles and in work zones."
Under regulations that took effect in 2004, work zone speed fines are $375 for first-time offenders and $1,000 for second-time offenders, regardless of the presence of workers. If workers are present, motorists can lose their driver's license for 90 days if they get a second violation. If a motorist hits a worker, they face a $10,000 fine and up to 14 years in prison.
IDOT and ISP will continue to work together to enforce the work zone speed limits for the safety of our workers and for the safety of the motoring public. Speed indicator boards will be utilized on the interstates to bring increased awareness of speed limits in work zones. Photo speed enforcement vans operated by State Police Troopers will be out in force again this year starting today. The work zone fines apply to photo speed enforcement.
Signs announcing the vans' potential presence are posted prior to motorists entering the zone and a speed indicator board above the van gives the driver one last chance to slow down. On average, there are 4,800 work zone motor vehicle crashes annually in Illinois. Last year, those crashes resulted in over 1,000 injuries. Provisional data indicates that of the 25 fatal work zone crashes in 2013, there were 28 fatalities with one of those being an IDOT worker.
This is the 13th year for Work Zone Awareness Week in Illinois, and several additional events are scheduled to promote safety. Beginning today, in honor of Work Zone Safety Week, the top of the iconic Tribune Tower at 435 N. Michigan Avenue will light up Chicago's skyline in orange. The Tower will be used to remind those traversing this high traffic area that work zones are dangerous and safe driving saves lives. Photo kiosks with interchangeable safety frames will be available to motorists at the same location to further stress the importance of safe driving in work zones. On Friday, April 11, IDOT workers, along with State Police, the Tollway and local labor unions will be at rest stops statewide, reminding motorists to drive safely in work zones.
In an effort to reduce fatalities on roadways, Illinois has adopted an overall zero fatality goal as part of the Illinois Strategic Highway Plan that includes a reduction in work zone related fatalities with measureable targeted reductions every year. The agency's goal is to have zero worker fatalities and reduce work zone crashes by at least 5 percent annually. To help achieve this goal, IDOT recommends that motorists slow down when they see orange indicating work zones or working vehicles, that they slow down, obey posted speed limits, turn off the cell phone, avoid all distractions, and be alert for the unexpected in a work zone.