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State takes new measures to increase safety in highway construction zones

[AUG. 24, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation Aug. 19 increasing the penalties for speeding in highway construction zones and allowing police to use cameras to enforce work zone speed limits. House Bills 7015 and 4012 are the latest measures recommended by the Governor's Work Zone Safety Task Force to be implemented in order to improve safety on our highways for workers and motorists.

"Forty-six people were killed last year in highway work zones; seven of them were workers. It's not enough to punish reckless drivers after a tragedy; we must do everything we can to keep these senseless deaths from occurring in the first place," said Gov. Blagojevich. "By increasing the fines for speeding in work zones, maybe motorists that aren't getting the message now will slow down if they get hit hard enough in the pocketbook."

Under the legislation signed Aug. 19, motorists caught speeding in a work zone will be fined $250 and charged an additional $125 to be deposited in the Transportation Safety Highway Hire-back fund, for a total penalty of $375. This fund is used to hire off-duty Department of State Police officers to monitor construction or maintenance zones. Motorists caught a second or subsequent time are subject to a fine of $750 and an additional charge of $250 deposited in the Hire-back Fund. Motorists caught speeding a second time in a work zone within two years will lose their driver's license for 90 days.

"Work zone safety is everyone's responsibility," said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Tim Martin. "Slowing down to 45 in a work zone will only add a minute to your trip, but not slowing down could cost you your life, or it could cost your passenger or a construction worker theirs."

Also, House Bill 4012 creates the Automated Traffic Control Systems in Highway Construction or Maintenance Zones Act, which allows state police to use a camera in controlling traffic in a highway construction zone. The automated traffic control systems may operate only when workers are present and must be designed to record a vehicle's speed and capture a clear image of the vehicle, its operator and registration plate. State police must conduct a public awareness campaign prior to operating an automated traffic control system, and signs must be placed stating that speed limits are being enforced with an automated system. If the photograph cannot identify the driver of a vehicle, the vehicle's owner is NOT liable.

 

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The increased penalties for speeding in a work zone and the use of automated traffic control systems are just some of the recommendations of a Work Zone Safety Task Force put together by Gov. Blagojevich last year. Other recommendations of the task force, comprised of members from the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, Federal Highway Administration, labor and industry representatives include:

  • Better defined work zones -- Projects on multilane highways have signs better identifying the appropriate speed in a particular work zone and also when it is safe to resume normal speed.
  • Modified driver education curriculum -- A compact disc and teaching manuals have been mailed to more than 1,500 high schools and private driver education facilities.
  • New signage -- A new sign has been developed and is being placed at projects throughout the state, publicizing work zone-related penalties: "Hit a worker, $10,000 fine, 14 years in jail."
  • Enhanced use of stationary and portable changeable message boards in and around work zones.
  • More consistent-looking work zones
  • Remote-controlled flaggers -- The Illinois Department of Transportation is using federal research funds to test 20 newly developed remote flagger workstations.
  • "Trooper in a Truck" -- State police are allowed to covertly enforce speed limits, out of uniform and in Department of Transportation trucks.
  • Trooper hire-back -- $1.7 million has been identified to fund additional troopers in work zones throughout the state. Additional troopers allow state police to deploy work zone details in areas of heightened concern.

"Instead of one trooper per work zone, we now have multiple troopers working enforcement details in construction areas," said State Police Director Larry Trent. "We're working closer than ever with IDOT engineers to make working on and driving on Illinois highways safer than ever before."

House Bill 7015 was sponsored by Rep. Patrick Verschoore, D-Rock Island, and Sen. Denny Jacobs, D-Moline. House Bill 4012 was sponsored by Rep. Paul Froehlich, R-Schaumburg, and Sen. Antonio Munoz, D-Chicago. Both bills are effective immediately.

[News release]

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