In Illinois, as in the rest of the nation, more and more highway work must be accomplished with motor vehicle traffic present as the focus changes from new construction to rehabilitation of existing highways and bridges.
Recognizing this as a major safety issue, the Illinois Department of Transportation launched its "Give 'em a BRAKE" campaign to get motorists to slow down in work zones and use extra caution.
The program was developed with three important elements: public information, law enforcement, as well as the use of the latest technology in work zone protection and safety devices.
To help remind motorists, special high visibility signs were designed and installed in work sites on the State-system with the slogan "Give 'em a BRAKE." The same message was presented to the public with posters at rest areas, truck stops and other locations. In addition, thousands of flyers were distributed throughout the state. Brief radio spots targeted for the drive-time audience were also widely used.
Illinois State Troopers were hired back after regular duty to exclusively patrol work zones and increase their visibility to motorists. Troopers were not assigned a single large work site, but instead covered several zones resulting in about 40 separate sites receiving some coverage each day.
Industry representatives and Department of Transportation staff evaluated new and innovative methods for traffic control and work zone safety last spring. This effort which will be ongoing has resulted in the testing of radar emitting devices, warning horns and truck mounted crash cushions at select locations around the state.
Although this has been the first year of the program, it is the general feeling of contractors, workers and state officials that work zone safety is showing significant improvement. During 1988, 24 people were killed in work zone accidents compared to 19 in 1989. Illinois State Police issued almost 16,900 citations to motorists. Spot checks showed that the presence of a State Trooper in work zones reduced traffic speeds by at least ten miles-per-hour, thus increasing the margin of safety. In addition, two of the truck mounted crash cushions were hit by high-speed vehicles and are credited with preventing serious injury to highway workers or vehicle occupants. Also, the public information and law enforcement efforts have heightened motorist awareness for the need to drive safely in work zones.
In the upcoming 1990 construction year, all of these efforts will continue with some being intensified as budgets permit with the aim of further improving safety in the work zone.
Although the "Give 'em a BRAKE" program has not yet been implemented to a large extent on the local highway system, a flyer explaining the program and posters may be obtained from the appropriate District Highway Office.
Municipal, County, and Township agencies who would like to use the original print in order to fabricate "Give 'em a BRAKE" signs in their jurisdiction or have any questions regarding the program, may write to R. W. Jones, Engineer of Traffic, Illinois Department of Transportation, 2300 South Dirksen Parkway, Springfield, Illinois 62764. •
Credits to: John R. Burke, Bureau Chief of Information and Public Assistance
Page 16 / Illinois Municipal Review / March 1990