AUSTIN (KXAN) — The number of people killed in traffic crashes in road construction zones increased by a third in 2021 over the previous year, data from the Texas Department of Transportation shows.

A total of 244 people were killed last year, up 33% over 2020. In total, more than 26,000 crashes were reported in construction and maintenance areas statewide.

The majority of those killed were either vehicle drivers or passengers, making up 195 of the 244 fatalities. A further 38 pedestrians were killed, along with four bicyclists. Three construction workers were killed in 2021.

According to TxDOT, speeding and distracted driving were among the leading causes of the crashes.

In the Austin area, 1,596 crashes in work zones resulted in 17 deaths and 63 serious injuries, according to TxDOT.

The new data comes less than a month after TxDOT revealed 2021 was the second-deadliest year on record on Texas roads, with more than 4,480 traffic fatalities statewide.

“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.”

Texas’ Move Over/Slow Down law requires drivers to shift over a lane or reduce their speed to 20 mph below the speed limit when approaching law enforcement or emergency vehicles, TxDOT vehicles, tow trucks or utility vehicles stopped on the side of the road with flashing lights.

Traffic fines are doubled in work zones when workers are present and can cost up to $2,000. If a driver fails to follow the Move Over/Slow Down law, a fine of up to $2,000 is also possible.

TxDOT encourages drivers to use the following tips when driving through a construction zone, as part of its ‘Be Safe. Drive Smart’ campaign.

  • Slow down and follow the posted speed limit.
  • Pay attention, keep your eyes on the road and don’t use cell phones.
  • Watch out for road crews. Their only protective gear is reflective clothing, a hardhat and safety boots.
  • Don’t tailgate to give yourself extra room to stop if needed. Rear-end collisions are the most common type of work zone crash.
  • Allow extra time to make it to your destination.