As the 2012 construction season gets into full swing, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Illinois State Police (ISP) and highway safety advocates launched the Embrace the Orange campaign and announced their participation in National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 23-27. The coalition is leading efforts to help reduce traffic related crashes, injuries and fatalities in work zones.
"With 2012 construction under way, the Embrace the Orange campaign strongly encourages all motorists and workers to be extremely cautious this year and take all necessary steps to be aware and protect themselves in and around work zones," says Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider. "Last year, 21 fatal crashes in work zones occurred across the state, including one of IDOT's own employees. Although this marks the lowest rate in four years, IDOT and its partners are determined to help ensure that there are no more work zone fatalities - one work zone crash, fatality or injury is one too many."
Speed and inattentiveness are major contributing factors to work zone crashes. Conditions such as narrow or reduced lanes, edge drop offs, equipment next to moving lanes of traffic and lane closures require a reduction in speed to safely travel through work zones.
"Construction zones can become fatal zones if road safety precautions are not followed and the Illinois State Police is committed to an overall zero fatality goal that also includes reducing work zone crashes," said ISP Operational Services Commander Jay Keevan. "Our Driving Zero Fatalities to a Reality message is clear and it should remind every motorist that every life counts and one life lost is one too many," he added.
Distracted driving law prohibits the use of hand-held wireless telephone devices for all drivers, regardless of age, while operating a vehicle in a school or construction zone. In addition, 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 prohibited.
Under regulations that took effect in 2004, work zone speed fines are $375 for first-time offenders and $1,000 for second-time offenders, with the loss of their driver's license for 90 days. If a motorist hits a worker, they face a $10,000 fine and up to 14 years in prison. Photo speed enforcement vans operated by State Police Troopers will be out in force again this year during construction season. 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 over 7,000 work zone motor vehicle crashes in Illinois every year. In 2011, 24 people died in work zone crashes. Of the fatalities, 21 were drivers or passengers, two were construction workers and one was a pedestrian.
This is the eleventh year for Work Zone Awareness Week in Illinois, and several additional events are scheduled to promote safety. On Friday, April 27, IDOT workers, State Police and the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) 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 five percent annually. To help achieve this goal, the agency recommends slowing down, obeying posted speed limits, putting down the cell phone and avoiding distraction in a work zone. Embrace the Orange and Driving Zero Fatalities to a Reality are the messages Illinois utilizes to encourage roadway safety and remind motorists that every life counts.