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Deadly wrecks highlight need for driver awareness in work zones

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Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012 4:00 am | Updated: 7:30 am, Thu Apr 26, 2012.

April 17 on Interstate 30 in Bowie County: Traffic slows to merge into one lane as drivers near a Texas Department of Transportation work zone.

A woman driving an SUV fails to react quickly enough to the slowed traffic, and her vehicle slams into the back of an 18-wheeler. She is critically injured. Her three-year-old son is killed.

April 19 on U.S. 79 in Panola County: Traffic is stopped by a flagger as a Ruston, La., woman was driving home from Navasota with her grandson. She fails to notice traffic had stopped and runs into the back of a box truck. The woman and her grandson are killed.

“We feel both tragic accidents could have been avoided if the drivers had been paying closer attention,” said TxDOT spokesman Marcus Sandifer.

“We just want everyone to slow down and focus on traveling safely through the work zones.”

The two deadly wrecks in East Texas serve to highlight the reason for National Work Zone Awareness Week.

In 2010, the most recent year for which there is data available, 100 people were killed in nearly 13,000 crashes in highway construction and maintenance zones in Texas.

While construction workers are most vulnerable, four out of five people killed in work zone wrecks are drivers and their passengers, according to highway department statistics.

The Texas Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration have a simple message to drivers across the state: Work zones are dangerous.

TxDOT spokesman Larry Krantz said statistics show the causes for work-zone crashes are the same causes for wrecks elsewhere — excessive speed and distractions.

Fourteen of the work-zone fatalities and 3,073 of the work-zone crashes reported in 2010 involved distracted drivers.

One-third of the crashes were rear-end collisions, Krantz said.

“The cramped confines of a work zone, combined with the condition of the road under repair, only magnify the effects,” he said.

“With the weather warming up, there are several projects around the Tyler District that will be working again after bring shut down over the winter months, in addition to our ongoing maintenance work,” Krantz said.

“So the time is right to remind drivers across the district, across the state and across the nation, that work zones can be deadly for everyone.”

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