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Our View

Our View: Tollway worker’s death a reminder to slow down

David Schwarz was a married father of two from Monee who had worked for the Illinois Tollway since 1992 as a roadway maintenance worker. He helped plow snow, remove hazards, and help drivers who had become stranded or otherwise needed help.

On Monday, Schwarz and a co-worker had stopped their vehicle along Interstate 294 near Alsip to pick up debris along the roadside when Schwarz was hit and killed by a passing semi-truck, Illinois State Police said. Police say they are searching for the driver, who never bothered to stop.

It’s yet another tragic reminder of the importance of driving safely on our Interstate highways.

Many drivers seem to regard our expressways and toll roads as places where posted speed limits do not apply. If the speed limit is 70 mph, they do at least 80. Many also seem to regard reduced speed limits in construction zones as suggestions, as well.

But they’re not. Laws governing speed and lane use on our expressways and tollways are meant to protect those who work on them for our benefit, and the others with whom we share the road.

Every day, workers like Schwarz are out on the more than 290 miles of Illinois Tollway roads, working to keep them clear and safe for the public. Illinois Department of Transportation employees work on the state's 2,250 miles of Interstate highways.

They work through winter storms and sweltering heat to ensure that roads are safe and that those who need help receive it.

They should be able to expect to return home each night, just like police, firefighters, and people who have to fix a flat tire.

To that end, this year an Illinois law designed to protect people along the roadside was expanded for 2017.

Illinois’ “Move Over” Law, also known as “Scott’s Law,” now requires drivers to change lanes or slow down to avoid any vehicle with flashing lights along the side of the road, whether it is a police cruiser or a minivan. Failure to follow the law can result in a fine of $120 to as much as $10,000 and a two-year loss of driving privileges.

Keeping a lane of space between high-speed traffic and people on the side of the road is a good way to avoid accidents.

It's not too much to ask: When you see a vehicle on the side of the road with hazard or emergency lights flashing, slow down and move over.

If you’re driving alongside a semi-truck, let them get over, too. If the person next to you doesn’t know the law or can’t bear to slow down for even 45 seconds, slow your own vehicle and change lanes behind them if you can.

Our condolences to Schwarz’s family, friends and coworkers for their loss. We hope the driver responsible for his death is found and held accountable.

If drivers follow posted speed limits and obey traffic laws designed to keep people safe, we should see fewer such senseless tragedies in the future.

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