AUSTIN, Texas -- New data released by the Texas Department of Transportation has highlighted a troubling trend on state roads.
Last year, there were 25,713 crashes in work zones, which resulted in 181 deaths. That represents a 27 percent spike in fatal work zone crashes from 2015 - a stark increase that TxDOT officials are now trying to reverse.
"It's disturbing when we see so many different types of crashes inside of work zones. And the crazy part is, they're entirely preventable," said Chris Bishop, who works in TxDOT's Public Information Office.
Of the 181 fatalities, 96 percent of them were motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.
“People often think work zone crashes result in the deaths of roadside workers, but statistics show the vast majority of these fatalities are drivers like you and me who are passing through as motorists,” TxDOT Executive Director James Bass said in a statement.
Bishop reminded people that work zones cover a variety of different situations.
"People aren't just working there next to you, but the pavement might be affected. Or the lane you're in might be shifting a bit," Bishop said.
According to TxDOT figures, there are as many as 2,500 active work zones on the 80,000 miles of road the department maintains across the state.
It's an issue that Blake Garrett, the founder and CEO of Aceable, is trying to prevent. Aceable is an Austin-based mobile driver's education program.
He offered suggestions for drivers.
"Slow down and really pay attention to the signs in the work zone. The number one cause of crashes in a work zone are rear-end collisions, which usually means the car in front of you is stopping or reacting to an unanticipated hazard," Garrett said.
While some cities, including Austin, have banned texting while driving, it's not illegal statewide. Garrett said cracking down on distracted driving can help prevent crashes.
"Whatever we can do can save that text message or phone call until you get home, please do it," said Garrett.
Outside of the safety consequences surrounding work zone crashes, there are also legal ones. Traffic fines in work zones double when workers are present, while penalties can cost drivers up to $2,000.
TxDOT is set to hold events across the state to promote their Work Zone Awareness campaign, where they'll be working with Texas Mutual Insurance company.
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