Work-zone safety promoted

Work-zone safety promoted

DANVILLE — As the 2013 construction season gets under way, the Illinois Department of Transportation, state police, Illinois Tollway and other partners kicked off a campaign to get motorists to slow down and pay close attention to safety while driving through work zones.

National Work Zone Awareness Week, which began Monday and runs through Friday, is part of an ongoing effort to reduce traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries on Illinois roads. The collaborative campaign raises awareness of "No Cellphones in Work Zones" and the "Move Over Law," both designed to decrease the number and severity of crashes.

"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 in increasing awareness and reducing the number of work zone crashes," transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider said in a release.

On average, there are over 7,000 work zone crashes in Illinois every year, officials said. They also said the 19 fatal crashes in 2012 killed 13 drivers, three passengers and three pedestrians, two of whom were road crew workers.

The state Transportation Department "and its partners are determined to help ensure that there are no more work zone fatalities. Even one is too many," Schneider said, adding this year's goal is to have zero fatalities and reduce crashes by 5 percent annually.

Officials, who talked about the campaign in Danville on Tuesday, said speed and inattentiveness are major contributing factors to work zone crashes. They cautioned motorists to be aware of narrow or reduced lanes, drop-offs on the edge of the road, equipment next to moving lanes of traffic and lane closures. Further, drivers should slow down and obey posted speed limits, put their cellphones down and avoid distractions.

Crashes "are avoidable when motorists respect the rules of the road and others working on the roads," state police Lt. Col. Terry Lemming said, adding the department will conduct enforcement efforts to ensure that motorists are obeying speed limits and other laws.

Distracted-driving laws prohibit the use of cellphones and other hand-held electronic devices while driving in construction and school zones, regardless of one's age. The use of those devices to text, email, compose, read or send a message or access Internet sites while driving is prohibited at any time.

State police said photo speed enforcement vans will be out "in force" again this year during construction season.

For more information, go to http://www.dot.il.gov/safetyEng/wzawarenessweek.html.

Work zone speed fines are $375 for first-time offenders, and $1,000 for second-time offenders. Second-time offenders also will lose their driver's license for 90 days.

If a motorists hits a worker, they face a $10,000 fine and up to 14 years in prison.

State police said photo speed enforcement vans will be out "in force" again this year during construction season, and the work zone fines apply to photo speed enforcement. Signs announcing the vans' potential presence are posted prior to motorists entering a zone and a speed indicator board above the van gives the driver one last chance to slow down.

Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed a proclamation designating April as "Work Zone Safety Month."

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