Illinois officers go undercover to catch work zone speeders

| 8/22/2005

They’ve got the policeman, and now, the construction worker. Three more characters, and the Illinois State Police will have the complete Village People lineup.

On July 21, District 15 of the State Police and the Illinois Tollway launched “Operation Hard Hat,” an aggressive ticketing campaign that uses undercover police officers, zero tolerance and pricey citations to help catch speeders in work zones.

In the program, State Police officers shed their uniforms and weapons for hard hats, orange vests and a LIDAR – light detection and ranging – gun, which works much like a radar gun, but can more accurately pinpoint individual vehicles, according to a police press release.

Once a speeder is clocked, the disguised officer then radios ahead to an officer in a patrol car waiting just outside the construction zone, who pulls over and tickets the speeder.

Additionally, the minimum fine for a speeding violation in a work zone in Illinois is $375 and requires a mandatory court appearance. A second offense has a minimum fine of $1,000 attached.

“Work zone safety is the number one priority on our roads,” Governor Rod Blagojevich said in a press release. “I commend the Tollway and Illinois State Police for using a variety of resources to protect not only the people working on our roads, but also the drivers who rely on the Tollway to get them safely to and from their jobs, businesses and vacation destinations.”

The end date for the program was not announced, but officials said the unique enforcement method would be effective even after it ends, as drivers will never know if a construction worker is actually an officer in disguise.

“The Illinois Tollway is making every effort to slow down traffic in all work zones,” said Executive Director Jack Hartman in a press release. “The innovative tools we’re deploying to enforce work zone speed limits demonstrate our determination to protect roadway workers, as well as our customers.”