In observance of National Work Zone Awareness Week, which runs through Friday, the Texas Department of Transportation is reminding motorists to eliminate distractions and exercise caution when driving through active work zones.


“We always urge drivers to exercise great caution and obey traffic laws, especially in work zones,” TxDOT Executive Director James Bass said in an emailed release. “Doing so helps ensure everyone — motorists and work crews — gets home safely to their loved ones.”


According to TxDOT, work zone fatalities in Texas increased by 9 percent from 2016 to 2017 and resulted in 199 deaths and more than 800 serious injuries last year.


“Most of the injuries and fatalities in work zones are not the workers,” TxDOT Paris District Public Information Officer Tim McAlavy said. “It’s the motorists, the pedestrians and bicyclists.”


McAlalvy said TxDOT will also use Work Zone Awareness Week to draw drivers’ attention to the state’s Move Over/Slow Down law.


“It basically says you need to move over or slow down (by 20 mph) when approaching a TxDOT crew, a law enforcement or emergency vehicle, even tow trucks that are stopped on the roadside or shoulder,” McAlavy said. “Now if it’s already in a work zone, then you need to be prepared to slow down to as little as five mph. And if you think the situation dictates it, it’s a good idea to pull over.”


Those who violate the Slow Down/Move over law could faces fines of up to $2,000.


McAlavy encouraged motorists to exercise caution in work zones year-round, to avoid distractions while driving and to follow all traffic signals.


“Let the cellphone wait,” McAlalvy said. “Keep both hands on the steering wheel, both eyes and your mind focused on the road ahead. Drive to the road conditions and if you see a traffic control, such as an orange barrel orange cone or sign, and especially if you see a person flagging traffic, please just take a deep breath, slow down and follow the directions given by that signal.”