AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than 200 people died in Texas last year in construction zones. That’s actually a 16% decrease, but still far too many. The Texas Department of Transportation is hoping you will “Be Safe and Drive Smart to help End The Streak” of deadly crashes on roads in Texas.

“I’m one of thousands of road workers in Texas working hard to build and maintain our roadways,” said Bo Wilson, who was speaking alongside representatives from TxDOT, Austin Police, the Texas Department of Public Safety and Austin-Travis County EMS for National Work Zone Awareness Week. Wilson has been with TxDOT for more than 20 years and had a dangerous close call last year. His crew had just taken a break for lunch, when a distracted driver crashed full speed into the construction zone he was working on Highway 71 in Bastrop County.

“Once DPS got there, he told them that he had just finished the phone conversation said his phone on his console, and it slid down into the floorboard and he reached over to retrieve it. Never seen any more signs never realizing he ran over a rumble strips to alert drivers and hit the cushion at 70 miles an hour,” Wilson said.

Of the 205 barrels behind the speakers at Monday’s event, only one represented the death of a construction worker. The rest were drivers, their passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists. This campaign is about the safety of construction workers and also for your safety as the driver.

In work zones around Austin, seven people were killed last year and 12 were seriously injured.
It’s state law to move over and slow down to protect first responders and roadside workers.
It requires you to reduce your speed by 20 miles an hour below the posted speed limit when you see an emergency vehicle, tow truck, utility vehicle or TXDOT vehicle with their lights on on the side of the road. If you don’t, not only are you putting lives at risk, but you face a steep fine up to $2,000.

Unfortunately, road workers experience distracted drivers on a daily basis.

Wilson said, “Every day, it’s mind blowing how many people pass you. And you can sit there and count the cars, how many of them are distracted? It’s probably nine out of 10 that are putting on makeup or leaning over the backseat checking on children or on their cell phones. It’s wild.”

All they’re asking is you stay alert, put your phone down and reduce your speed. It can not only save their life, but yours as well.