TEXARKANA, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – The Texas Department of Transportation kicked off National Work Zone Awareness Week by urging motorists to stay alert and slow down when driving through work zones in Texas roadways.

According to TxDOT, in 2021, traffic crashes in the state’s work zones claimed the lives of 244 people, seven of those fatal crashes were in the Atlanta District.

“The main causes are going to be speeding, driver inattention, and unsafe lane changes, and the most common crashes that occur in those work zones are rear-ending crashes,” said TxDOT Atlanta District Traffic Safety Specialist Kristy Whisenhunt,

Road workers are essentially working only a few feet from where people are driving. Atlanta District Transportation Specialist Chad Heldt has been with TxDOT for more than 20 years. He recalls the crash which seriously injured him in 2010. He was parked next to a work site in Marion County.

“I saw the truck was fixing to hit me, so I grab a hold of the steering wheel. Just close my eyes and I felt the impact and then next thing I know when I open my eyes I was in the median of the roadway,” Heldt said.

Heldt still deals with the effects of numerous injuries but says he’s just happy to be alive

“I have three compression fractures in my back and then I had two fractures in my pelvis in the front on the left side and two in the rear.”

As road construction projects ramp up statewide, TxDOT is asking motorists to slow down and stay alert.

“It’s important to know that whenever you go into work zones you are slowing down, paying attention, just making sure that you have enough reaction time so if something does happen you will be able to react,” Whisenhunt said.

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 of up to $2,000.