The Illinois Department of Transportation wants to make sure you know how fast you're driving the next time you pass a work zone.
In an effort to ensure safety to its workers and for those driving through road construction sites, IDOT on Wednesday announced a pilot program to help drivers stay aware of their speed as they drive through roadwork areas. The agency will begin placing radar boards at metro-east work zones that will flash a digital number indicating an approaching driver's speed to remind those who are driving too fast to slow down.
IDOT's state safety engineer Priscilla Tobias said the state transportation agency has used radar boards like these on a case-by-case scenario, but this will be the first time IDOT has expanded this use, specifically for work zones across a particular region.
Last year, 38-year-old Pocahontas resident and road worker Dennis Beard was killed and three other road workers were injured while working on Interstate 64 in Fairview Heights. The four were waiting in a median for a sign to be repaired so they could begin striping the road when they were struck by a vehicle driven by 34-year-old Michael Jeter of West Frankfort.
Southwestern Illinois Laborers District Council Business Manager Glyn Ramage said the safety of the council's members' safety is the first priority.
"Of all the issues that we face today, I can't think of one that tops the list more than sending the working men and women in our work zones home safely to their families at night," Ramage said.
Ramage read a statement by Beard's widow, Josie Beard, who pleaded to all motorists to drive within the speed limit and "save another family from our agony."
"It is so hard to face every day, even almost a year later. How unfair and senseless this was to take Dennis away from us. So please slow down and pay attention when you see orange. Your patience and awareness will save lives."
According to the law that took effect in 2004, work zone speed fines are $375 for first-time offenders. Second-time offenders face a $1,000 fine and a loss of their driver's license for 90 days. If a motorist hits a worker, they face a $1,000 fine and up to 14 years in prison.
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2526.