When people think of the most dangerous jobs out there, road construction may not be at the top of the list. But, safety is is something road crews think about every day.
A crew, working on Harrison Avenue near the I-39 overpass, constantly feels the wind from cars that drive past them, sometimes mere feet from where they’re standing.
“This is a huge issue for us,” said Gianna Urgo, Public Information Officer for IDOT. “Construction workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the state. They put themselves in harm’s way every day to make sure we all have decent roads to travel on.”
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) says work zone crashes are common, averaging about 5,200 crashes every year across the state.
The agency does not have number specific to Northern Illinois however. A representative for IDOT says no workers have died as the result of any crashes this year, but there have been accidents where workers were hurt.
“In 2016, 143 workers died in a work zone crash,” said Urgo. “As to speak to how often it occurs – way too often.”
In those fatalities, four out of five incidents involved workers, drivers and passengers being killed. IDOT has gone to great lengths, providing pamphlets, talks at work sites, and listening to both the state police and federal employees.
The message is being spread in Rockford by Fire Chief Derek Bergsten, who has dealt with work zone crashes.
“We have so many distractions in our life now,” he said. “You have your cellphones, Bluetooth in your vehicle. You really need to focus on driving, because it’s not just you it’s going to affect. It’s other people, innocent bystanders that are on the roadway with you.”
In honor of Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, IDOT has been reaching out to drivers by handing out pamphlets at rest areas, and will continue through Friday.