New Distracted Driving Laws and Goals to Help Save Lives on Illinois Highways
As the 2010 highway construction season gets underway, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Tollway, Illinois State Police, Local Laborers Union, and other Illinois Strategic Highway Safety Plan (ISHSP) partners announced today the participation in National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 19-23. This is part of an ongoing effort to reduce traffic related fatalities and serious injuries on Illinois roadways.
Motorists need to be aware of new distracted driving laws, slow down, obey the posted speed limit and be alert in work zones. On January 1, 2010, two new distracted driving laws went into effect. The use of wireless telephones for all drivers, regardless of age, while operating a vehicle in a school zone or construction zone is prohibited (unless using a wireless telephone in hands-free, voice-activated mode).
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 is prohibited.
“We want to urge drives to be alert and be distraction free while driving, especially through a work zone,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig. “We are taking every step possible to make sure drivers are not talking or texting on their mobile devices while driving. The fines are in place and we just want to be sure every driver is focused on the road.”
“This construction season the Illinois Tollway will focus on repairs to the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355) and the Edens Spur (I-94) as the $6.3 billion Congestion-Relief Program work winds down,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. “We thank drivers for slowing down and paying attention in work zones over the past five years and ask for their patience and cooperation again this year.”
On average, there are over 7,000 work zone motor vehicle crashes in Illinois a year resulting in 2,100 injuries. In 2009, provisional data indicates that there were 31 fatal crashes in work zones in which 31 people died. 25 of those deaths were the drivers or passengers of vehicles and one was a pedestrian. Worker fatalities increased from two in 2008 to five provisionally in 2009. From 2004-2008, large trucks were involved in over 21% of all work zone crashes in Illinois and were involved in nearly 50% of fatal work zone crashes. Motorists need to realize that it takes time for large trucks to slow down because of their size and weight. Speed and inattentiveness are major contributing factors to work zone crashes. Current and newly passed laws will be enforced to increase safety for all.
“Illinois State Police Troopers will strictly enforce work zone speed limits and the “move over” law which requires motorists to slow down and, if possible, change lanes when approaching police, emergency or construction vehicles displaying flashing warning lights,” Acting Director Jonathon E. Monken said. “We will also strictly enforce two new Distracted Driving laws which restrict the use of a cell phone in a construction zone and texting while driving.”
Under toughened work zone speeding fines that took effect in 2004, first time offenders caught speeding in a work zone face a $375 fine; second time offenders face a $1,000 fine and the loss of their drivers’ 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. Five vans will be active at various locations throughout the state. The work zone fines apply for photo speed enforcement.
“Highway construction is dangerous work, but it shouldn’t be deadly,” said John F. Penn, LIUNA Vice President and Midwest Regional Manager. “Laborers are the best trained construction workers anywhere, but no training can protect a flagger faced with a 2-ton vehicle operated by a distracted driver who’s talking on a cell phone in a work zone,” said Penn.
See orange. Slow Down. Save Lives! is IDOT’s work zone safety campaign to increase awareness and promote safety for workers and motorists. In an effort to reduce fatalities on roadways, Illinois has adopted an overall zero fatality goal as part of the Illinois Strategic Highway Safety Plan (ISHSP) that includes a reduction in work zone related fatalities with measurable targeted reductions every year. Driving Zero Fatalities to a Reality is the message that Illinois has adopted to remind motorists that every life counts.
For more information on National Work Zone Awareness Week, please log onto http://www.dot.il.gov/safetyEng/wzawarenessweek.html .