AUSTIN (Nexstar)- Even with fewer vehicles on the road during the pandemic, Texas saw work zone fatalities increase by 9% in 2020. 

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.”

TxDOT’s “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” campaign is marking National Work Zone Awareness Week with safety tips to reduce work zone fatalities. 

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.

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.

Traffic fines double in work zones when workers are present, and fines can cost up to $2,000. Failure to heed the Move Over/Slow Down law can also result in a $2,000 fine.