MARY MEAUX — Construction can be a headache, but safety is most important

Published 12:04 am Friday, May 13, 2022

I think I’m safe when saying most motorists really dislike road construction.

The orange cones, the barricades, the detours and the necessary drop in speed limit all hamper our drive time and slow us down from getting from Point A to Point B.

I can’t count how many times I’ve passed by construction and let out an audible sigh, and possibly a cuss word or two, at the inconvenience. Sure I understand the reason — a road is either being repaired or built anew.

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What usually slips my mind are the workers on these roadways. The men and women right it the middle of it, sometimes mere feet from vehicles hurrying along. Please note that I do look out for them.

Now, as the Texas Department of Public Safety works on the new U.S. 69/Texas 73 Interchange, I see the workers on a regular basis.

Now is as good of a time as any to remind drivers to take extra precautions in these work zones.

I recently received a media release from TxDOT urging drivers to slow down and exercise care when traveling through highway construction areas.

In 2021, 244 people lost their lives across Texas in these work zones, which is a 33-percent increase from the previous year.

Drivers and their passengers accounted for the majority of those who died in Texas work zone crashes last year: 195 motorists or vehicle passengers were killed, along with 38 pedestrians, four bicyclists and three roadside construction workers.

Speeding and driver inattention were among the leading causes of crashes, TxDOT said.

Last August, a construction crew member was killed and another injured after a multi-vehicle crash along U.S. 69 south in Beaumont.

In relation to National Work Zone Awareness Week, which was in April, TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams said the statistics are cause for tremendous concern. The number of people killed on our roadways reached a 40-year high in 2021, and fatalities in our workzones rose dramatically

“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,” Williams said. “That’s why it’s crucial for everyone to give driving their full attention and drive a safe speed in areas where construction and maintenance are underway.”

Tips for driving safely through a work zone:

  • Slow down. Follow the posted speed limit and adjust your driving to match road conditions.
  • 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 reflective clothing, a hardhat, and safety boots. Always follow flaggers’ instructions and be mindful of construction area road signs.
  • Don’t tailgate.Give yourself room to stop in a hurry, should 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.

And don’t forget the Move Over/Slow Down law that 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 can cost up to $2,000. Failure to heed the Move Over/Slow Down law also can result in a fine up to $2,000.

Mary Meaux is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at mary.meaux@panews.com.