Governor Pat Quinn kicked off Work Zone Awareness Week - a campaign to get people to slow down and drive safely in highway work zones. The effort is part of the governor's agenda to ensure the safety of all people in every community across Illinois. The event was held at the site of a $93 million construction project at the I-74 and I-155 interchange in Morton, one of the largest road projects under Governor Quinn's Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program.
"As we embark on the largest early-season construction program ever, everyone must remember that safety in work zones saves lives," Governor Quinn says. "By slowing down, staying off the phone and moving over for workers, we can reduce the number and severity of work zone crashes."
There are an average of more than 7,000 work zone motor vehicle accidents in Illinois every year. Of the 19 fatalities in work zone crashes during 2012, two of those killed were workers. Conditions such as narrow or reduced lanes, edge drop offs, equipment next to moving lanes of traffic, and lane closures require speed reductions to safely travel through work zones.
This week's campaign is part of an ongoing effort to reduce traffic related fatalities and serious injuries on Illinois' roadways. Governor Quinn has proclaimed April as Work Zone Safety Month and launched an effort to raise awareness of the "No Cell Phones in Work Zones" and the "Move Over" laws.
"The Illinois Department of Transportation is committed to safety in our state's work zones, and educating the public about new and existing laws is crucial to increasing awareness and reducing the number of work zone crashes," Secretary Ann L. Schneider said. "Last year, 19 fatal crashes in work zones occurred across the state. IDOT and its partners are determined to help ensure that there are no more work zone fatalities, because even one is one too many."
In an effort to reduce fatalities on roadways, Illinois has adopted a zero fatality goal as part of the Illinois Strategic Highway Safety Plan. The goal is to have zero worker fatalities and reduce work zone crashes by five percent annually. To help achieve this goal, IDOT recommends slowing down, obeying posted speed limits, putting down cell phones, and avoiding distractions in work zones.
"Work zone crashes are avoidable when motorists respect the rules of the road and others working on the roads," Illinois State Police Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lemming said. "State Police will be conducting enforcement missions to ensure that speed limits are followed and construction zones are safe and passable."
Distracted driving laws prohibit the use of all hand-held electronic devices while driving in construction or school zones, including hand-held wireless telephone devices for all drivers, regardless of age. The use of electronic communication 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.
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 the State Police will be out in force again this year during construction season. Signs announcing the vans' potential presence are posted prior to entering the zone and a speed indicator board above the van gives the driver one last chance to slow down.
The location of today's Work Zone Awareness Week kick-off program is a $93 million project that will reconstruct the I-74 and I-155 interchange and reconfigure the I-74 and Morton Avenue interchange near Morton. The project addresses a critical infrastructure need while creating hundreds of construction jobs. It is funded by Governor Quinn's $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! program that is supporting more than 439,000 jobs over six years. It the largest capital construction program in Illinois history, and is one of the largest capital construction programs in the nation.