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posted: 4/22/2014 7:45 AM

Editorial: Slow down, be smart in road construction zones

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  • Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.comOfficials expect this to be the worst construction season in recent memory in the Chicago area.

    Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.comOfficials expect this to be the worst construction season in recent memory in the Chicago area.

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Just when you thought the dangers of winter driving were in your rearview mirror and it's smooth sailing ahead, spring's arrival brings a new hazard for motorists.

Yes, road construction season is here, and by all accounts this year's list of projects is bigger and badder than any in recent memory.

In a few short weeks, we have traded complaints about drifting snow and black ice for lane closures and work zones. The result can be much the same: slow-moving traffic, fender-benders and rising blood pressure.

There's no denying those orange barrels and portable digital signs signal a headache approaching, but keep in mind that like winter, this too shall pass.

Along the way, though, drivers must redouble their efforts to be safe behind the wheel, especially when traveling through construction zones. That's where hazard and patience tend to have an inverse relationship.

Experts say there will be no shortage of roadwork throughout the suburbs to test drivers in the coming months. A major remake of the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90), reconstruction and widening on the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway and on a portion of Route 53 are among the high-profile projects.

Locally, drivers will find major projects such as resurfacing on Route 83 in DuPage County, widening on Hart Road in Round Lake and interchange reconstruction at Route 20 and McLean Boulevard in Elgin.

Daily Herald Transportation Writer Marni Pyke wrote in last week's In Transit column that the spring and summer construction work will be "the worst for traffic the region has seen in years."

So how do drivers cope? Much as they do at the start of winter, motorists have to adjust their driving to fit changing conditions.

Here are some tips to be safe while driving through construction zones.

• Watch your speed because the speed limit drops and fines increase.

• Be aware of construction crews so these workers can go home to their families after a day on the job.

• Eliminate distractions, such as cellphones and the radio. You must be engaged and focused as traffic lanes narrow and shift and other vehicles jockey for position.

• Find alternate routes and leave extra time. Why slug through a congested construction zone if you don't have to?

We also urge police to use road construction season as an opportunity to step up enforcement of the cellphone law that prohibits drivers from using hand-held devices.

But the best advice is to calm down, be patient behind the wheel and take your time.

It isn't worth getting upset in a construction zone and banging up your car or worse.

When the project is completed, the result will be smoother roads, wider lanes and more modern traffic signals -- just in time to start driving in snow and ice again.

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