KANKAKEE — Over the course of the first six days of this month, Illinois State Police investigated five crashes in a work zone on Interstate 57 in Kankakee County.

The work zone is located between the 302 and 311 mileposts in both directions.

No one has been killed or seriously injured in any of the crashes.

Four of the crashes involved semi-tractor trailers. The other was an SUV.

Three of the accidents occurred between midnight and 5 a.m. The other two accidents occurred at approximately 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively.

They occurred between the 308 and 310 mileposts.

They also occurred during a holiday weekend when traffic is heavier.

People commenting on social media said the work zone is poorly laid out.

Other commenters blame the drivers, saying motorists need to slow down and pay attention.

State police and Illinois Department of Transportation officials took notice of the accidents and additional precautions were put into place this week.

“The Illinois State Police District 21 has been in contact with IDOT in reference to recent crashes in the area, ISP Captain Don Aaron Harsy said in a statement.

“We asked for extra signage to reinforce the need to obey traffic laws in the construction zone, which has been approved and is being installed. We are also increasing patrols in the construction zone in an effort to reduce hazards to workers and the traveling public.”

“Since the incidents, the contractor has installed additional 45 mph signs, ‘Low Shoulder’ message boards and additional barrels for delineating the edge of shoulder,” IDOT official Maria Castaneda said in an email.

A Daily Journal reporter drove through the northbound and southbound work zones on Thursday afternoon. Traveling the posted work zone limit, the changes were evident.

The zone also included a state trooper parked in the southbound lanes with his emergency lights activated.

Many vehicles observed the posted 45 mph speed limit, but there were signs other drivers still wanted to zip through at a faster pace.

A semi traveling south at 45 mph had five passenger vehicles following closely behind. When exiting the work zone past the 302 milepost, all five passenger vehicles sped past the semi.

The same scenario occurred in the northbound zone.

“The posted speed limit in the work zone is 45 mph, however, traffic continues too far exceed those limits,” Castaneda noted.

Before entering and exiting the zones, the reporter travelled the posted 70 mph limit. Many passenger vehicles were going above the posted limit.

“IDOT is committed to making the safety of our workers and the traveling public our No. 1 priority. We want to remind the public that when driving in and around work zones to slow down, pay attention and avoid all distractions,” Castaneda said.

Being ticketed for speeding in a work zone is expensive.

“Speeding in a work zone is a serious offense which can result in tragic consequences,” Harsy pointed out. “The minimum fine for a first offense of speeding in a work zone is $250. A second offense results in a driver’s license being suspended for 90 days and a $750 fine.”

“Crashes that occur in work zones are particularly disheartening because a large majority of them could be avoided if motorists were simply slowing down and paying attention,” added Harsy.

There have been 21 crashes in the work zone since the project began in April.

According to 2019 statistics published by IDOT, there were 6,701 crashes in work zones, with 28 being fatal and 33 fatalities, which included two construction workers. There were 1,231 injuries, including 128 serious injuries. Six construction workers were injured.

Work on the project started in April and is scheduled to be completed by July 1, 2022.

Kankakee County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Ken McCabe had this advice.

“Slow down and put all devices down. Do not drive distracted. Your full attention is needed. There is no margin for error,” he said.

“I tell people to drive through a work zone like a member of your family is working in it.”

Jeff Bonty is a reporter for The Daily Journal. He can be reached at jbonty@daily-journal.com and 815-937-3366.

Reporter

Jeff Bonty has worked for The Daily Journal since September 1986, starting in the sports department before moving to news reporting in 2002. He's a native of Indiana and graduate of Purdue University. His email is jbonty@daily-journal.com.