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April 16, 2013

Texans driving way too fast in work zones, officials say

Workzone2@gdickson

One particularly heart-tugging image seen in some highway work zones is an orange sign bearing the message: "Please slow down. My dad works here."

But while that sign appeals for the safety of highway workers, in reality four of every five people killed in a work zone is a motorist. Workzone1

"We want the public to crank up their awareness," said Lonny Haschel, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman.

Haschel joined officials from the North Texas Tollway Authority and Texas Department of Transportation on Tuesday at a work zone site along Interstate 20. Speaking on a newly built bridge over the interstate, the group called for motorists to bear greater responsibility for their actions on the road.

"There is over $11 billion in construction in the North Texas area, with more on the way," said Brian Barth, Fort Worth deputy district engineer for the state transportation department. "Your daily commute to work and school is changing on a daily basis and we need every driver to stay alert."

Work zone fatalities have fallen 39 percent during the past decade, said Elizabeth Mow, tollway authority assistant executive director of infrastructure.

Still, last year 134 people were killed statewide in work zone crashes.

"We need the public's help to complete the picture," Mow said.

Speeding and driver inattention are the leading causes of work zone fatalities, Haschel said.

Distractions such as talking or texting on a mobile device are also a major problem, Barth said.

National Work Zone Safety Awareness week is this week. The groups chose Tuesday's site for their press conference because it is part of the Chisholm Trail Parkway project, a 28-mile toll road from downtown Fort Worth to Cleburne that is scheduled to open next year.

The Chisholm Trail Parkway project has created work zones across a swath of southwestern Tarrant County, crossing Interstate 30, I-20, Hulen Street and Texas 183 (Southwest Boulevard).

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