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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: IDOT 217-782-6953
April 7, 2003 Illinois Tollway: 630-241-6800 Ext. 2380

TRANSPORTATION AGENCIES CAUTION MOTORISTS
OF WORK ZONE DANGERS AS CONSTRUCTION SEASON BEGINS

CHICAGO, IL -- Construction season is about to be in full swing across Illinois, and orange construction cones and signs will soon be a familiar sight on city streets and state highways.

The Illinois Department of Transportation joined with the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, the Illinois State Police, and labor unions to caution motorists to be alert for work zones, and to slow down when approaching them. April 6-12 is National Work Zone Awareness week.

"There will be hundreds of work zones on state roads this summer," Illinois Transportation Secretary Timothy Martin said. "We want to make sure the men and women working to improve these roads return to their families each evening, and we want to make sure that you reach your destination safely.

"Impatience, speeding, and driver inattention are the leading factors in work zone crashes. If you see red when you see orange, you’re in the danger zone."

Thirty-one people died in Illinois work zone crashes in 2002, and more than 2,000 people were injured. State highway construction zones are not the only danger areas. Nine of the deaths last year involved work zones on city, county and township roads. Nationally, more than 1,000 people died in work zone crashes and 40,000 people were injured.

If motorists see an accident or an unsafe construction or road condition, they can get immediate assistance in the Chicago metropolitan area by dialing *999 on their cellular phones. The Illinois Tollway and IDOT offer several emergency services to help motorists in need including the tollway’s H.E.L.P. trucks and IDOT’s emergency services trucks.

"We need everyone to pitch in and help keep our roadways safe during construction season," Illinois Tollway Executive Director Jack Hartman said. "We’re doing our best to offer up-to-date roadway condition information and emergency assistance, and in return we’re asking drivers to slow down and stay alert in work zones for their own safety, as well as that of our workers."

Martin said that drivers need to tend to the task of driving and to be especially alert when approaching and driving through a work zone. "This is a time when you need to totally focus on driving and to be alert for machinery and workers moving in the construction area. It’s not the time to talk on the cell phone or to someone in the back seat, or to change the radio station."

Both IDOT and ISTHA advise drivers to merge into the open lane of traffic as soon as they see the lane closure signs in advance of the work area to avoid major congestion at the point where the lane is closed.

The agencies are asking motorists to turn on "headlights for safety" as they travel through a work zone so their vehicle can be easily seen by on-coming traffic and by workers, and for truck drivers to also turn on their emergency flashers. Many times truck drivers downshift to slow their trucks instead of braking, and trailing motorists fail to notice the truck has slowed until it’s too late. The flashing emergency lights can warn following vehicles that traffic is slowing and to leave a safe distance between vehicles.

The Illinois State Police will continue their presence in work zones by patrolling each work zone in the state at some point during the project’s duration. ISP has a zero tolerance policy for work zone violations, meaning motorists will get a ticket, no warnings will be issued. Minimum fine in a work zone is $200.

IDOT offers road construction information on the Internet at www.illinoisroads.info, or www.dot.il.gov. Interstate construction information is also available by calling 1-800-452-4368. Construction information for the toll roads can be found at www.illinoistollway.com. Motorists can call 1-800-TOLL-FYI (800-865-5394) 24-hours a day for daily updates on work zone locations and lane closures. The agencies recommend that motorists take advantage of this information, as well as that provided on the regional traffic web site www.gcmtravel.com, so they can plan alternate routes or allow extra time to reach a destination.

Whenever and wherever you drive, you could encounter a work zone. Use common sense—slow down and drive with caution. Give ‘Em a Brake!"

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