New survey shows fatalities on the rise as growing statewide population puts more drivers, workers on the road
AUSTIN — As traffic increases along Texas roadways because of our booming population, fatal crashes are on the rise. In an effort to curb the trend, the Texas Department of Transportation today was joined by state leaders, the city of Austin and members of the transportation industry to ask the public to Be Safe. Drive Smart. In recognition of National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 15-19, TxDOT’s Be Safe. Drive Smart. campaign reminds drivers to slow down, stay alert and observe traffic signs when approaching work zones.
“Crashes and fatalities in work zones are preventable,” TxDOT Deputy Executive Director John Barton said. “We can build safe highways and increase law enforcement efforts, but ultimately work zone safety is in the hands of all of us who drive. For safety’s sake, we ask that drivers put down their cell phones, slow down, plan for alternate routes and be patient.”
At any one time there can be as many as 1,000 active work zones in Texas, Barton said. TxDOT currently has 20 active work zones along I-35 encompassing 109.6 miles from north to south Texas. This is the most work zones the agency has ever had on the state’s main corridor as it tackles one of the largest construction programs in department history. In 2012, there were 16,687 crashes in roadway construction and maintenance zones in Texas, resulting in 134 fatalities.
“Any time your job site is just a few feet away from fast-moving traffic, danger is never far away,” said Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, vice chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “When you see construction signs and orange barrels, take your foot off the gas, put the phone down and keep your eyes on the road.”
Work zone crashes have become such a concern, the Associated General Contractors of America recently conducted a survey, which found a staggering 45 percent of Texas’ highway contractors had motor vehicles crash into their construction work zones during the past year. Those work zone crashes injured drivers and passengers 62 percent of the time, and construction workers 19 percent of the time.
This issue is not exclusive to urban areas. In fact, 46 percent of fatal work zone crashes occurred in rural areas last year.
“Texans love our wide-open spaces,” Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. “Unfortunately, there is a higher percentage of fatal crashes on our state’s rural roads compared to urban areas. Wherever you live, it’s vital we all take precautions in work zones. Prioritizing safety above arriving a few minutes early could spare your life and the life of another hard-working Texan.”
During National Work Zone Awareness Week, TxDOT’s permanent dynamic message signs along state highways and roadways will remind drivers to use caution, be safe and drive smart in work zones. The messaging comes at a critical time as Texas welcomes more than 1,000 newcomers per day, many of whom are not familiar with the state’s traffic laws.
The Texas Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining 80,000 miles of road and for supporting aviation, rail, and public transportation across the state. TxDOT and its 12,000 employees are committed to working with others to provide safe and reliable transportation solutions for Texas by maintaining a safe system, addressing congestion, connecting Texas communities, and being a Best in Class state agency. Find out more at TxDOT.gov. Fan us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.