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updated: 11/13/2017 7:52 AM

How Lake County is trying to reduce fatalities, serious crashes

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  • The Lake County Division of Transportation is teaming with law enforcement agencies and municipalities to form a multijurisdictional safety task force to reduce serious accidents.

      The Lake County Division of Transportation is teaming with law enforcement agencies and municipalities to form a multijurisdictional safety task force to reduce serious accidents.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, 2012


The Lake County Division of Transportation has upped the ante on traffic safety by establishing a multifaceted task force to reduce the number of fatalities and serious crashes.

Local officials, engineers, law enforcement and others are collaborating on the team, which will work to spot trends, share resources and create strategies to make the county's roads safer.

"We're looking for areas in the county where we're seeing a trend in crashes and we're trying to do all we can to address them," said Jon Nelson, engineer of traffic for the county's DOT.

Combining different perspectives also is a way to identify low-cost, safety-related projects, say those involved. For example, engineers can determine if signs or lighting will improve safety at a given location, while police can decide if traffic enforcement strategies can be implemented to address an issue.

"We all have tactics and initiatives locally that can be replicated elsewhere, so a larger task force approach makes sense," said Lake Zurich Police Chief Steve Husak, a task force member.

Safety strategies involve measures such as making curves more visible on rural highways, improving the line of sight at intersections without signals, and conducting campaigns to increase seat belt compliance and reduce speeding and impaired driving, Husak said.

In 2015, the most recent information available, there were 16 fatalities on local roads in Lake County and 20 more on state routes.

Also that year, 209 serious injuries were reported on local roads and 260 on state routes.

The number of traffic fatalities reported in 2015 was 50 percent higher and serious injuries about 17 percent higher than reported in 2012, according to information provided by Nelson.

"We're just trying to figure out how to reduce those numbers," he said.

Federal transportation funding bills require each state to develop, implement and update a Strategic Highway Safety Plan, according to the Illinois Department of Transporation.

IDOT developed a plan in 2005 to reduce severe crashes statewide. The safety plan has been renewed several times and the agency has been working with each county to develop local plans.

In addition to specific crash locations, the Lake County task force will be examining the types of crashes with a big-picture view, according to Brooke Hooker, LCDOT spokeswoman.

"And instead of addressing a problem with one strategy in one spot and another agency applying a completely different strategy, we can learn from each other and apply similar strategies," she said.

Partnering also will allow for a better connection with specific audiences, such as young drivers, she said.

Education is regarded as a main component.

A short "Drive Nice" video was released a week ago with the official announcement of the task force, as well as a survey.

"The thought was, crash data can only tell us part of the story, but road users probably have a lot to say on the matter as well," Hooker said.

As of this past Friday, about 400 had taken the survey, which includes the opportunity for groups to request materials or a speaker.

"We're still very formative," Nelson said. "We know it's important to get the word out."

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