State Police urge drivers to use caution in work zones

By WEEK Producer

April 7, 2014 Updated Apr 8, 2014 at 12:04 AM CDT

MORTON, Ill. -- Road construction season is underway.

State officials are asking drivers to be safe during this National Work Zone Awareness Week.

Illinois State Police Troopers said during last year's construction season there were several crashes in the Interstate-74 work zone near Morton, but they are hoping it will be different this year.

Last year in Illinois, there were 4,800 work zone crashes, 1,100 of those involved injuries and 29 people died in construction zone crashes.

The Morton construction zone is the largest road construction project in central Illinois.

State officials are asking all drivers to really think about what they are doing and who is at risk when they are driving through not just there but any work zone.

We all want better roads and bridges. That comes at a cost but it shouldn't cost a life.

"It could be somebody's daughter, somebody's son and once you hit them you can't take that back,” said Bob Schroeder of Laborers Local 231. “You can't slow down and you can't not text and you can't do everything that you shouldn't have been doing when you hit them in the first place."

Illinois State Police say they will once again be aggressive in enforcing laws this season.

"Out in the construction zone behind us last year we had some extremely high speeds. We had up to a 96 mph in a 45 mph and that's completely unacceptable,” said Illinois State Police Sgt. Dustin Pierce.

Last year, District 8 State Troopers, who cover Peoria, Tazewell, Marshall, Stark and Woodford counties, issued almost 800 work zone speeding tickets. Most of them were near Morton.

"It will take you an extra minute to get through this job site at the posted speed limit,” said Ed Walch of Fred Weber, Inc. “I ask you for one extra minute of your time for the safety of yourself and those driving around you."

Troopers also issued nearly 700 tickets to drivers for being on their cell phone in construction zones.

"Think of that message you are sending to those workers when you pick your cell phone up and drive through this job site,” Walch said. “You are telling them that you don't have very high regard for their safety or the safety of the people driving around you."

There is still a lot of work ahead for the Morton construction zone. Traffic patterns will constantly be changing until they are completely done in July 2016.

In the meantime, slow down and watch out for those orange barrels.