ANTHONY, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – The El Paso District of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) took a crafty approach to promote the department’s statewide work zone safety campaign this week, by constructing a giant snake sculpture out of orange traffic barrels previously hit by inattentive drivers.

“TxDOT El Paso’s maintenance staff set up its bright orange snake sculpture to encourage drivers throughout the Lone Star State to be safe on Texas roadways,” wrote TxDOT in an announcement about the statue, “especially in work zones and highway construction areas, where road crews are often working only feet away from fast-moving vehicles on Texas roadways”

The statue was created with Work Zone Awareness Week upcoming, according to TxDOT, who said that it hopes the sculpture will remind people to slow down and stay alert while driving through the thousands of work zones in Texas to protect themselves and others.

Traffic deaths in Texas work zones increased by 33% over the last year, said TxDOT, with a total of 244 lives lost. Overall, the number of crashes in Texas highway construction and maintenance areas rose significantly to more than 26,000.

The majority of people who died in those crashes, said TxDOT, were drivers and their passengers. 195 motorists or vehicle passengers were killed in work zone crashes in Texas, along with 38 pedestrians, four bicyclists, and three roadside workers. The leading causes of those crashes included speeding and inattention.

“It’s cause for tremendous concern that the number of people killed on our roadways reached a 40-year high last year and fatalities in our workzones rose dramatically,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams, “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. 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.”

TxDOT detailed five 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.

TxDOT continued on to say that roadside safety also extends to complying with the state’s Move Over/Slow Down law, which requires drivers to move over a lane or reduce their speed to 20 miles per hour below the posted limit when approaching a TxDOT vehicle, emergency vehicle, law enforcement, tow truck, or utility vehicle that is stopped on the roadside with flashing lights. Traffic fines also double in work zones when workers are present and can cost up to $2,000.

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