As road construction projects ramp up statewide, TxDOT officials are asking motorists to slow down and stay alert when driving through the thousands of work zones in Texas to protect themselves and others. In 2021, traffic crashes in the state’s work zones claimed the lives of 244 people, a 33 percent increase over the previous year.
Drivers and their passengers accounted for the majority of those who died in Texas work zone crashes last year: 195 motorists or vehicle passengers were killed, along with 38 pedestrians, four bicyclists and three roadside construction workers. Speeding and driver inattention were among the leading causes of crashes.
With these alarming statistics in mind, TxDOT’s “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” campaign is marking National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 11–15, by sharing safety tips to prevent work zone crashes and fatalities.
“It’s cause for tremendous concern that the number of people killed on our roadways reached a 40-year high last year and fatalities in our work zones rose dramatically,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “It’s important for drivers to remember that driving conditions in work zones can be especially challenging because of extra congestion, slow-moving heavy equipment, temporary barriers and vehicles that make sudden stops. That’s why it’s crucial for everyone to give driving their full attention and drive a safe speed in areas where construction and maintenance are underway.”
The “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” campaign offers five tips for driving safely through a work zone:
Slow down. Follow the posted speed limit and adjust your driving to match road conditions.
Pay attention. Avoid distractions, keep your mind on the road and put your phone away.
Watch out for road crews. The only protective gear they wear is reflective clothing, a hardhat, and safety boots. Always follow flaggers’ instructions and be mindful of construction area road signs.
Don’t tailgate. Give yourself room to stop in a hurry, should you need to. Rear-end collisions are the most common kind of work zone crashes.
Allow extra time. Road construction can slow things down. Count on it, and plan for it.
Roadside safety also extends to complying with the state’s Move Over/Slow Down law that requires drivers to move over a lane or reduce their speed to 20 mph below the posted speed limit when approaching a TxDOT vehicle, emergency vehicle, law enforcement, tow truck or utility vehicle stopped with flashing lights activated on the roadside.
Traffic fines double in work zones when workers are present and can cost up to $2,000. Failure to heed the Move Over/Slow Down law also can result in a fine up to $2,000.
“Be Safe. Drive Smart.” is a key component of #EndTheStreakTX, a broader social media and word-of-mouth effort that encourages drivers to make safer choices while behind the wheel such as wearing a seat belt, driving the speed limit, never texting and driving, and never driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Nov. 7, 2000 was the last deathless day on Texas roadways. #EndTheStreakTX asks all Texans to commit to driving safely to help end the streak of daily deaths.
All roadway safety professionals are encouraged to wear orange on April 13 for National Go Orange Day to proudly show their support of work zone safety.
This article originally appeared on Herald Democrat: TxDOT says work-zone wrecks killed 244 Texans in 2021