The Texas Department of Transportation is reminding motorists to practice safe driving when driving through work zones.

National Work Zone Safety Week continues through Friday and state officials want motorists to be wary when driving through road construction zones on its highways.

During the pandemic, Texas work fatalities increased 9% in 2020 compared to 2019, TxDOT officials said in a press release. This is why the transportation department is calling on motorists to “make safety their number one priority at all times,” and especially when traveling through work zones.

Octavio Saenz, spokesperson for TxDOT’s Pharr division, said although workers have seen drivers not paying attention to signs or driving in the wrong directions at times, it has not warranted having to contact police departments for assistance as the agency had to do earlier this year in Brownsville.

Construction equipment, vehicles and TXDOT workers are gathered in a blocked-off section of road under construction Wednesday on Boca Chica Boulevard.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

According to TxDOT, last year there were over 22,000 traffic crashes in Texas work zones with 186 people killed including four road workers. This why the state agency encourages the public to abide by the following guidelines:

>> Slow down: Follow the posted speed limit and drive to 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 a vest, a hardhat and safety boots.

>> Don’t tailgate: Give yourself room to stop in a hurry if you need to.

>> Allow extra time: Road construction can slow things down. Count on it, and plan for it.

TXDOT employees work in a blocked-off section of road as motorists pass through a temporary lane Wednesday during construction on Boca Chica Boulevard.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

In February of this year in Brownsville, the Cameron County Precinct 2 Constable’s Office had to patrol around a TxDOT construction project on Boca Chica Boulevard because some motorists were driving recklessly and disregarding safety signs.

Precinct 2 Constable Abelardo Gomez Jr. said constables were at the location for about two weeks and were surprised how motorists not only exhibited disregard for the TxDOT crews working on the road way, but for themselves as well.

“TxDOT requested assistance because of the lack of respect by drivers. They were just driving all over the barricades and through the materials and equipment,” Gomez said in an earlier interview.

Gomez said he was very surprised how much disregard the drivers have for workers.

“I feel really sorry and concerned for their safety. They were driving through the workers and driving around our patrol cars,” to get around the barricades.

Traffic fines double in work zones and fines can go as high as $2,000. Failure to heed the Move Over/Slow Down law can also result in a $2,000 fine, TxDOT reports. 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.

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