TxDOT El Paso’s Work Zone Willy | Photo courtesy TxDOT El Paso/Facebook
AUSTIN – Even with less traffic during the pandemic, Texas work zone fatalities increased 9% in 2020 compared to 2019. That’s why TxDOT is calling on drivers to make safety their number one priority at all times and especially when passing through active construction and maintenance work zones on the roadway.
TxDOT’s “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” campaign is marking National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 26–30, with safety tips to reduce work zone fatalities. Last year, there were more than 22,000 traffic crashes in Texas work zones with 186 people killed, including four road workers.
“We know driving through work zones can be challenging,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “There can be extra congestion, slow-moving heavy equipment, temporary barriers, and vehicles that make sudden stops. We can’t stress enough how important it is to give driving your full attention and slow down—for your own safety and that of the people who work alongside the road.”
Drivers and their passengers account for the majority of those who have died in work zone crashes. In 2020, 147 motorists and vehicle passengers were killed in Texas work zones, along with 35 pedestrians and bicyclists and four road workers.
To help drive home safety reminders, the TxDOT El Paso District will distribute educational videos on their social media platforms and have placed two life-sized reminders in two parts of town – creatures created by maintenance staff from previously hit orange barrels.
Safe-T-Rex on our Montana project in Far East El Paso and Work Zone Willy near the Spaghetti Bowl on our I-10 Connect project are up reminding drivers not to text and drive and not to speed.
In the El Paso District in 2020, there were 789 traffic crashes in work zones, resulting in 4 fatalities and 3 serious injuries. In El Paso in 2020, there were 626 traffic crashes in work zones, resulting in no fatalities and 2 serious injuries.
The Texas Mutual Insurance Company, which helps employers prevent workplace incidents and their consequences, is partnering with TxDOT to promote safe driving. The “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” campaign outlines five key steps drivers can take to safely navigate a work zone:
- Slow down. Follow the posted speed limit and drive to conditions. Unsafe speed is one of the main causes of crashes in work zones.
- 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 a vest, a hardhat and safety boots. Remember, they want to get home safe, too.
- Don’t tailgate. Give yourself room to stop in a hurry if 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.
TxDOT officials add that 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 can also result in a $2,000 fine.
State law 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.