Blagojevich proposes increases in traffic citations

By Gus Bode

Appoints task force to look into state road safety

Twenty-two points, plus triple-word-score, plus fifty points for using all my letters. Game’s over. I’m outta here.

Please slow down my daddy works here.

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Please slow down my mommy works here.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is trying to make sure parents return home from their daily jobs.

After two construction deaths in the past two months, Blagojevich proposed hefty fine increases for anyone who speeds or drives recklessly near construction sites.

Abby Ottenhoff, spokeswoman for Blagojevich, said construction violations have always been a problem, but recent incidents have brought the topic to the forefront again.

“It’s inexcusable anytime someone is killed because of the recklessness or carelessness of someone else,” Ottenhoff said. “We need to do what we can to shut down behavior that is dangerous to people who are doing their jobs on the roadside.”

His proposed changes would increase the cost of a speeding ticket in a work zone from $200 to $500. The cost of a reckless driving ticket would double from $250 to $500. Repeat offenders would face a fine of $1,000.

“People are certainly going to think twice before they speed through a zone where people are working if they know there are severe penalties and fines if they are caught,” Ottenhoff said.

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In Illinois, officers wrote 2,800 citations in work zones where workers were present, according to Master Sgt. Rick Hector of the Illinois State Police.

Blagojevich appointed a three-member task force to look at the dangers facing workers on highways and determine the steps the state can take to reduce the risks. It will also make sure current safety laws are being enforced.

The task force, which is expected to report back to the governor by Thanksgiving, includes Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Tim Martin, Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Executive Director Jack Hartman and Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent.

“This task force is looking beyond just [increased fines],” Ottenhoff said. “So if they find that there are other things we can do to improve safety for workers, their ideas could potentially turn into additional legislation.”

Blagojevich’s proposal will not be the first time the state has proposed harsher penalties for those who speed or drive recklessly in work zones. Fines for violations have increased on three occassions in the past eight years.

In 2001, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation to discourage recklessness in work zones by creating tougher penalties for anyone who injures construction workers at an accident site. Blagojevich followed suit this summer when he signed legislation that allows a reckless homicide charge for anyone who is speeding and kills a worker in a work zone.

After the task force reports its findings to Blagojevich, he is expected to put his proposal before the General Assembly.

Reporter Amber Ellis can be reached at [email protected]

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