State police troopers in Tazewell County don’t need to cite statistics to justify their stepped-up traffic patrols over Labor Day and other holiday weekends, but they will.
Nor do those and other officers need to study maps to know where many, and some of the worst accidents take place.
Drivers this weekend can learn those locations as well, simply by noting the presence of police in search of speeders, drunken drivers, those failing to wear seat belts and other traffic violators.
A word of caution in advance: Don’t try your luck on U.S. Route 24 in and around Washington.
That stretch of the highway, between Nofsinger Road on the east and Spring Creek Road on the west, has become one of the more dangerous traffic areas in Tazewell County, Ross Green, public education officer for Illinois State Police District 8, said Thursday.
“We’re having more problems in the last four years there than in the previous 10,” Green said.
Statistics bear tragic witness.
From Memorial Day this year through August, traffic accidents have taken six lives in Tazewell, raising the year’s total so far to eight.
Two people, a mother and her 6-year-old daughter, were killed when a teen-aged youth struck their car late last month on U.S. 24 at Cummings Lane in Washington.
“Speed seems to be the factor driving those bad crashes” on the highway, Green said. In October 2014, a driver was speeding more that 20 miles beyond the 55-mph limit at Main Street when she, like the youth last month, drove through a red light. A young woman died in that broadside collision.
While the highway’s intersections at both Cummings and Main are controlled by stop lights, those at Nofsinger and Spring Creek have stop signs for traffic on the two roads. In at least Nofsinger’s case, that may soon change.
Washington Police Chief Ed Papis confirmed Ross’s report that the Illinois Department of Transportation is advancing a study to replace the stop sign at Nofsinger on the highway with a controlled light.
“There is a plan to rebuild the Nofsinger intersection to include a light,” Papis said. “That would be a good idea. It’s what (his department has) been advocating.”
Green said he understood a similar change is being considered at Spring Creek. Papis said he’s heard support for the change from “concerned citizens.”
Lights at both intersections would be justified, Green said. “Drivers often don’t realize how fast cars are coming” on the highway as they pull out from the stop signs on the two roads, he said.
The summer’s fatal crashes in Tazewell — and nine fatalities so far in Peoria County, already three more than in 2015 — reflect a continuing rise in traffic deaths statewide since 2009, when 911 fatalities marked the lowest total since 1921.
Through August, 709 people have died on Illinois roads this year, Green said. A total of 998 were killed last year.
“With four months to go” this year, “I hope we don’t surpass last year, but we’re on track to do so,” he said.
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin