Illinois work zones pose dangers for drivers and workers alike when motorists do not take the proper care when passing through them. Accidents in a work zone have a higher rate of fatality than other crashes for a variety of reasons. Even though the State of Illinois has taken actions to protect workers in these construction zones, there is still an elevated number of fatalities each year. Illinois drivers may simply not be paying enough attention when they pass through the work zones.
Work zones present a number of increased dangers for both drivers and the people working in them. The lanes are narrower and changing traffic patterns, causing difficulties for even drivers who are paying full attention. The dangers are compounded when the driver is distracted or speeding. Moreover, there is road construction equipment located right on the side of the highway.
Drivers Are Most at Risk in Work Zones
Believe it or not, while you may think that the biggest danger is faced by the construction workers, it is actually drivers who are the fatalities is most highway construction accidents. Remember that, even though the worker is stationary on the side of the road, it is the driver who is either traveling through the work zone at an unsafe speed or is simply not paying attention. Thus, over 90% of the fatalities in work zone crashes are drivers.
Illinois Laws Regarding Road Construction Sites
625 ILCS 5/11-605.1 prohibits speeding in a work zone. It does not matter whether there are workers present or not. As a driver, you cannot speed through a work zone at any time. Even if nothing seems to be happening in the work zone, as long as there is a sign declaring it to be one, it has the legal status of a work zone.
Illinois has harsh penalties for speeding in a work zone. According to 625 ILCS 5/11-605.1, drivers have a minimum fine of $375 for their first offense of speeding through road construction sites. The fine rises to $1000 for their second offense. If a driver exceeds the speed limit going through a work zone twice within two years, they will lose their license for 90 days. Illinois also has speed cameras set up in work zones to catch and fine speeding drivers when workers are present in the roadway construction site.
With these harsh penalties, you would think that they would be enough to force Illinois drivers to be safer when they are traveling through highway construction zones. Unfortunately, the statistics of road construction accidents tell a different reality.
More Work Zone Accidents But Fewer Fatalities
The only good news in this area is that the number of fatalities in work zone accidents in Illinois has fallen recently. Before that, they were at very high levels. In a given year, there are likely to be an average of 5,000 crashes in Illinois’ work zones. The number remains high, even with all of the penalties mentioned above.
In 2018, there were over 6,000 crashes in work zones. The number of fatal injuries in these crashes dropped to 17 from 30 in 2017. Before that, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation, the fatality rate was even higher. In other words, the number of work zone crashes are going up, but the number of people killed is decreasing. However, there were 1,625 people injured in these crashes, including 140 crashes with A-injuries (when one suffers a severe injury that does not allow them to resume the daily activities they did before the crash). Only one worker was killed in a work zone crash with four A-injuries.
While the lower number of deaths in recent years is encouraging, it is important to consider why the number of work zone crashes remains stubbornly high in Illinois. It begs the question of whether Illinois drivers are oblivious to the dangers when driving though construction areas.
Reasons for Highway Construction Accidents
One of the major problems that cause accidents in construction areas is that drivers do not see the signs alerting them to reduce their speed on the roadway. A major reason for this is that a driver could be distracted. NHTSA, a subagency of the Federal Highway Administration, has statistics that show the extent of the problem in Illinois. According to NHTSA, at any given time, one in ten Illinois drivers is using their phone while they are driving. The state has recently upped penalties for distracted driving, but it remains a problem in Illinois.
Another contributing factor to work zone accidents is the presence of many trucks on Illinois roads. Given the state’s location at the center of the country and numerous rail lines, drivers must share the road with truck drivers. More than half of the fatal crashes in work zone involved large trucks driving through the construction projects.
In addition, Illinois is a Midwestern state with aging infrastructure. While the state does not have the worst roads in the country, it ranks 16th in the United States in terms of number of roads in disrepair. More crumbling roads and bridges means that the state must do more work to fix the roads. There may be more road construction work zone in Illinois than in other states, leading to more work zone fatalities.
How to Stay Safe in a Road Work Area
Illinois drivers need to take it upon themselves to pay attention to work zone safety in construction areas on roads such as I-58 or the Illinois Tollway. They should do the following in order to safely reach their destination:
- Notice and observe posted signs
- Slow down their speed when in work zones
- Be alert at all times
- Pay extra attention while in construction areas
- Pay close attention to traffic pattern changes
- Be careful when driving by construction equipment
In other words, the high number of road zone crashes in Illinois results from a combination or more road work zones and drivers who are distracted.
If you have been injured in a work zone accident because of the negligence of someone else, you should contact an attorney for a free consultation.