Texas work zone accident deaths rose by 27 percent last year, which has prompted the state Department of Transportation to issue a stern warning to motorists: Slow down.
Specifically in San Antonio, KTSA 107.1 reports there were more than 2,000 work zone crashes last year, resulting in dozens of injuries and 7 deaths. In Austin, officials report 1,485 construction zone crashes resulting in seven deaths and nearly 70 serious injuries. Recently in Austin, construction workers looked on terrified as an allegedly drunk driver barreled the wrong direction down the highway, slamming into highway construction zone equipment. He only narrowly missed the crew members working on site.
These incidents and others motivated TxDOT to to launch a statewide program to increase awareness of work zone construction accidents and urge people to drive more carefully.
It's called "Humans at Work." The goal will be to put a real face on people affected by work zone crashes. Real stories and employees will be featured, sharing their close calls, their catastrophic injuries and the deaths of loved ones and co-workers.
Although the primary goal is to improve the safety of vulnerable work crews stationed along the highways, improving driver safety is important too. Approximately 90 percent of work zone accidents in Texas last year resulted in the driver being injured or killed, according to a TxDOT representative.
Construction workers know their jobs are risky, but that doesn't mean they have to be. Construction zone car accidents are entirely preventable, usually simply by drivers paying attention and slowing down.
Last year, the transportation department calculated statewide more than 25,000 car accidents in construction zones. Within those, 180 people died and more than 750 people suffered injuries, many of those catastrophic injuries that have proven life-altering.
Of the 180 people who died in construction zone crashes, seven were construction workers, the agency reports. What that tells us is most people affected are motorists.
State laws prohibit excessive speed, texting/ distraction and impairment behind the wheel, and penalties can be especially harsh when driving near roadway construction workers. State lawmakers passed a bill in 2013 mandating drivers either move over or reduce their speed to 20 mph below the posted speed limit as they approach work zones.
Yet, we continue to see these collisions occurring, often with tragic results.
Part of the reason is that San Antonio and all of Texas is experiencing a population boom. More growth places heightened demands on our infrastructure, which leads to more construction site accident injuries and fatalities.
Crews say they want drivers to understand that when they speed through these areas or maneuver recklessly around these cones, those they jeopardize are not nameless, faceless beings behind the barriers. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brother and friends. Its imperative that we all prioritize their getting home safely from work.
Some facts to remember per the National Traffic Safety Institute:
- Crashes in highway work zones are most likely to be rear-end collisions;
- Majority of ticket fines may be doubled in work zones;
- Work zones may have unexpected changes in lane patterns and speeds;
- Work zones may detour drivers to unfamiliar routes, creating confusion;
- Lanes may often be reduced in width and traffic may be required to merge several times.
Slowing down and paying attention can often reduce the chances of a highway work zone crash exponentially.