While it is a fact of life for most Chicago residents, driving on Illinois roads can be perilous. Crumbling roads and bridges cause damage to vehicles and can lead to serious accidents. When it comes to damaged roads, Illinois currently rates the highest in the nation. Both its roads and bridges are deemed dangerous by safety experts.
The State of Illinois Roads
The State of Illinois is facing a severe budget crisis. As a result, many Illinois roads are in a state of disrepair. According to the former Illinois Secretary of Transportation, one in five Illinois highways is currently in need of serious repair. Currently, Illinois is facing the highest percentage of highways in disrepair since the Illinois Department of Transportation started collecting data.
Unfortunately, Illinois roads are in worse shape than most. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 73% of Illinois roads are rated in fair to poor condition. This statistic places Illinois as first in the nation for unrepaired roads. Neighboring states, such as Indiana, did not rate as poorly. In fact, Indiana came in at 17 percent. The agency estimates that this leads to $2.4 billion dollars in repair costs, or $292 per individual motorist.
Many Illinois roads were designed to hold up for 20 years, but are 40 to 50 years old today. The maintenance needs for these roads go well beyond basic plowing and resurfacing. A major overhaul will be required to get them back to their original condition.
Because gas taxes help to pay for infrastructure repair, the rise of energy-efficient vehicles is increasing the problem even further. Around 10 million vehicles use Illinois roadways each year, and this wear and tear is causing continued problems.
The bridges in Illinois may also pose danger. Around 16 percent of the state’s nearly 19,000 bridges were deemed structurally deficient.
The Dangers of Unmaintained Roads
Highways are already dangerous, but when roads are in a state of disrepair, the situation only gets worse. Unfilled potholes, uneven pavement and small road shoulders can cause drivers to lose control of a vehicle and are major contributing factors to many car accidents. Signs of an unmaintained road include:
- Faded pavement markings
- Potholes and cracks
- Uneven pavement and lanes
- Damaged or inadequate guardrails
- Signs that are damaged, knocked over or covered by overgrown foliage
Local and state governments are charged with the maintenance of Illinois roads. Unfortunately, when repair begins, the dangers of driving on the road only increases. The more severe the damage gets, and the more work that is required to fix it, the more hazardous construction areas appear.
Construction Zones Add Hazards
In order to fix roads and bridges, construction zones are necessary. Unfortunately, these construction areas only add to the danger of already unsafe roads. It is the responsibility of the government entity that is overseeing a construction zone to place proper signage and barriers to keep motorists safe.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 5,000 people died and 200,000 were injured in work zone crashes, over a 5 year period. Eighty-five percent of these individuals were drivers or passengers, not construction workers. Drivers should take care in construction zones, looking out for:
- Construction materials that obstruct a driver’s vision
- Warning signs
- Closed lanes
- Speed limit reductions
- Large vehicles and trucks, working at, and transporting materials to and from the construction site.
When driving in a construction zone, motorists should pay close attention to the road and any signage, be prepared to react, adhere to posted speed limits and follow other vehicles at a safe distance.
Liability, When the Road is to Blame
In the state of Illinois, both government agencies and private companies are responsible for designing and building roads that are safe to drive on. When roads are a contributing factor to an accident, individuals may seek compensation from these entities.
Construction zones should maintain passable areas that are reasonably safe for drivers to maneuver. Medians and shoulders should also be kept clear for emergency vehicles. Local and state governments are provided with recommendations from the federal government for appropriate signage, that warns of the construction zone dangers.
When an obstruction or feature of the road is the significant cause of an accident and causes a safety concern, the responsible entity may be liable. This means that Illinois residents can consult with a car accident attorney to determine if a case against the government, a private construction company or the design firm exists.
Illinois courts consider cases like this on an individual basis. In some cases, the design of the road is the obvious culprit. In other cases, injured parties and expert witnesses may be called in to help determine who, or what, was to blame for an injury-causing accident.