Laborers and Hoffman suggested the project after fatal crash
By CARL GREEN
Collinsville – Anyone who has driven in the Metro East has seen them – speed indicators along work zones that tell you how fast you’re going, and if you’re going too fast.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), through a pilot program, placed 13 speed-indicator boards in Metro East and southern Illinois work-zones last year. IDOT is now taking the program statewide, under a program suggested by the Southwestern Illinois Laborers’ District Council and other work-zone safety advocates.
“We want everyone to make it home or to their destination at the end of the day,” IDOT safety engineer Priscilla said at a press conference May 12 alongside an Interstate 255 work zone near Collinsville.
The most common cause of work-zone accidents is speeding, Tobias said, and studies show the speed indicators, which click on when drivers are going too fast, make a big difference.
“They do capture the real-time speed of oncoming vehicles,” Tobias said, as a line of traffic rumbled by at about 15 mph. “It makes it more likely that motorists pay attention, slow down and stay off their cell phones.”
LABORERS PUSHED FOR CHANGE
The project began with the Laborers following the death on May 22, 2012, of Dennis Beard at an Interstate 64 work site near Illinois 159. He was a member of Laborers Local 100, East St. Louis.
Three other Laborers were injured in the crash, which was caused by a medicated driver who was not paying attention. Beard’s widow, Josie, is now a safety advocate and attended the press conference.
After the accident, Dustin Ramage, LECET (Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust) Director of the Laborers’ District Council, along with Business Manager Glyn Ramage, talked to state Rep. Jay Hoffman, a Democrat from Swansea, about what could be done to make the work zones safer for their members.
Hoffman worked with the Illinois State Police and IDOT to create the pilot project.
Hoffman’s own father died in a construction accident 31 years ago.
“I know what it’s like to lose a loved one in a construction accident,” he said.
A WIFE’S AGONY
Josie Beard pleaded at the press conference for drivers to take responsibility for making sure other families don’t go through what hers has had to.
“Dennis’ life is gone, and our lives as we knew them are gone,” she said. “I was left with the painful task of telling my three children that their father was never coming home again.
“Our family pleads to everyone to save another family from this agony. It is still so hard to think, two years later, how unfair and senseless it was to take Dennis from us.
“Please, slow down, and pay attention when you see orange,” she said.
SLOW DOWN, MOVE OVER
The minimum fine for speeding in a work zone is $375. A second offense carries a $1,000 fine plus a 90-day license suspension if workers are present. Drivers who hit a worker face a $5,000 fine and up to 14 years in prison. The tough penalties were set in 2004, also with collaboration from the Laborers and Hoffman.
State Police Capt. Calvin Dye Jr. said drivers can become complacent, particularly in longer work zones, when passing through sections where no work is being performed. But things change fast in a work zone.
“Too many people still think they can go 60 miles an hour if they don’t see anything being done. But then a worker can pop up out of nowhere,” he said.
The speed indicators have helped keep drivers alert to the work zone, Dye said.
“There is no doubt that if you are speeding in a work zone, the likelihood of an accident is greatly increased,” Dye said. “Our message is clear – slow down when entering a work zone, and when approaching flashing lights, move over.”
Ramage said the Laborers have added to the campaign by erecting two billboards showing the Beard family and imploring drivers to be careful in work zones.
“We’re just trying to spread that message,” he said.