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Be safe while driving through all work zones

Work zone traffic crashes are much more likely to kill motorists and their passengers than anyone else. Drivers should keep the lessons of Work Zone Awareness Week in mind all year long.

Published: Friday, April 19, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

It may be no accident that Gov. Pat Quinn unveiled the state’s $12 billion, 5-year highway construction plan the same week as National Work Zone Awareness Week.

With all those extra work zones on the horizon for statewide road and bridge repairs, safety certainly should be highlighted.

The onus, however, is not on the governor to improve work zone safety.

It is not on his transportation secretary, his state police director, his transportation department chief, or other administration officials.

The onus is on everyday drivers. They have the most to lose in work zone crashes. Statistics from last year bear that out.

In 2012, more than 7,000 crashes happened in highway work zones.

Nineteen people were killed in those crashes.

Of the 19, 16 were either drivers or passengers in motor vehicles passing through work zones.

Only three fatalities were pedestrians – two of them construction workers.

So, if you are driving and get involved in a work zone fatal crash, the changes are 84 percent that the person killed will be you or someone in your vehicle.

Pretty poor odds of survival, if you ask us.

Those promoting Work Zone Awareness Week have simple requests for motorists who drive in work zones:

1) Slow down.

2) Pay attention.

That’s because speed and inattentiveness are major factors in work zone crashes.

Work zones may have narrow lanes, edge drop-offs, equipment and workers situated next to moving lanes of traffic, and lane closures. They are not to be taken lightly.

Drivers who use cell phones behind the wheel should consider that they have been put on notice by the state’s “No Cell Phones in Work Zones” campaign. Distracted driving laws ban the use of all hand-held electronic devices while driving in construction zones; heightened enforcement is promised.

Speeding and inattentive driving cause fatal crashes outside work zones, too. We have the sad duty to report that, as of Thursday, Illinois highway fatalities have risen 13 percent compared to last year (270 deaths this year, compared to 239 last year at this time).

Quinn announced projects in all five counties of the Sauk Valley, so work zones will be part of the local scene for the foreseeable future.

Let’s all redouble our efforts to drive safely, reduce accidents, and arrive alive.

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