WILL COUNTY, Ill., Dec. 3, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Citing 20 truck-related deaths in less than two years, a group of concerned Will County residents and the Village of Elwood launched Safe Roads Illinois today, a community-based coalition aimed at reducing the amount of heavy truck traffic in the area and making local roads safer.
With thousands of trucks traveling to and from dozens of area intermodal and warehousing facilities each day, Will County has been overwhelmed with heavy truck traffic that has overrun the community in recent years, creating dangerous conditions and putting lives at risk.
Meri Knauer's 8-year-old granddaughter, Madison Frost of Crest Hill, was killed in 2014 when her family's minivan collided with a semi-truck on Route 53 following a birthday party. Knauer joined the Safe Roads Illinois coalition, calling on elected officials to take aggressive action to prevent further truck-related tragedies from occurring.
"Families and neighbors are the ones paying the ultimate price when: truckers run red lights and cut us off; speed, tailgate and slam on the brakes; crash through railroad crossing safety gates; ignore signs and drive in our neighborhoods; disregard weight limits and vehicle safety regulations; and disobey law enforcement," said Knauer, who appears in a video on the group's website – www.SafeRoadsIL.com.
"We deserve to drive on safe streets without fear that any trip might be our last. I won't let Madison's death be in vain," she added. "Our lives have been forever changed. We're fighting to make sure that it doesn't happen again."
Since 2014, there have been a total of 20 truck-related deaths in Will County. In 2014 alone, there were 909 truck-related accidents and 156 truck-related injuries in Will County, the highest totals for any county in the state outside of Cook.
The growing truck traffic stems from the sprawling intermodal facilities in Joliet and Elwood as well as dozens of surrounding warehouses. More than 8,000 heavy trucks and nearly one million containers are brought in and out of the intermodal facility in Elwood alone each year.
The Safe Roads Illinois coalition is encouraging Will County residents to visit www.SafeRoadsIL.com and sign an online petition to increase pressure on local, state and regional elected officials and encourage them to act in the interest of safety. The website, which serves as a platform to give residents a voice to address these issues, also provides updates on new developments, truck-related accidents and deaths, pending legislation and action alerts. In addition, Will County residents who see trucks disregarding the safety of other drivers are encouraged to share their stories, pictures and videos via social media, using the hashtag #SafeRoadsIL, provided they can do so in a safe manner.
"Safety for Will County residents is our top priority," said Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes, immediate past President of the Illinois Association of Police Chiefs, who supports the effort. "Will County has turned into the Wild West, with brazen truckers blatantly disregarding and breaking the laws. Residents have understandably had enough. They want to reduce the truck traffic and reclaim their neighborhoods, safety and quality of life."
Along with reducing truck traffic and limiting future development, the Safe Roads Illinois campaign aims to: hold truckers accountable for disobeying the law; make developers liable for their actions; implement smarter trucking routes; and toughen commercial driving licensing and penalties.
Safe Roads Illinois aims to create and sustain a dialogue with Will County residents, businesses and elected officials to create long-term solutions to the safety problems and unplanned development that continues to persist throughout the county, particularly with more warehouses and intermodal facilities in the works.
Safe Roads Illinois supports jobs, economic opportunity and understands the roads leading in and out of the intermodal facilities play a crucial role in their operations and impact businesses throughout the Midwest. Nevertheless, the group supports achieving a balance that enhances safety, ensures vibrant commerce and maintains quality of life for residents.
"We support jobs and commerce but are very concerned about the unplanned, overdevelopment of intermodal facilities and warehouses in Will County, which is threatening our quality of life," said Bob Barney of Jackson Township. "With more development planned, these problems will only compound and reach a dangerous tipping point."
In the past year, Will County residents have united to gain key victories. In January, the Illinois Commerce Commission closed the Walter Strawn rail crossing at Route 53, citing an "immediate safety concern" after numerous near-misses between trains and trucks, the continuous breakage of railroad crossing gates (more than 50 in less than a year) and the countless veteran funeral processions that were cut off by trucks failing to abide the rules of the road.
This fall, Will County lowered the weight limit along Manhattan Road in Jackson Township after residents secured over 500 signatures to restrict trucks, which had been breaking the law and using the route as a short cut. In April, Elwood resident Bob Corcoran was killed when his car collided with a semi-trailer truck illegally traveling on Manhattan Road.
"The continuing threat to our safety and the fight to rein in unplanned development and dangerous traffic condition isn't over," said Dennis O'Connor of Elwood. "We know our elected officials cannot ignore the power of the people and Safe Roads Illinois provides an avenue to ensure our voices are heard. We cannot simply stand by while our roads are taken from us. Now is the time for Will County residents to join together and collectively say, 'Enough is enough' and commit to taking back our roads."
SOURCE Safe Roads Illinois