DOT urges drivers to slow down, pay attention in work zones

More people are losing their lives because of wrecks in Georgia work zones. Distracted driving seems to be playing a role in the jump in crashes. It's Work Zone Awareness Week and SKYFOX Traffic's Katie Beasley has a look at the drastic numbers that are rising across the nation.

In 2017, there were more than 20,000 wrecks in Georgia work zones. As the weather improves, this is the time of year those construction projects really ramp up.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has a display with traffic cones in their office lobby, each cone represents a person. Since 1973, 60 Georgia DOT employees have been killed in work zones.

"Imagine putting your desk on the middle of I-85 and having cars whizz by you at 80 miles per hour, that's the type of environment they work in," explains DOT Spokesperson Natalie Dale.

Earlier this year, contractor Lamar Ragland was killed as he worked on a construction project on I-85. He was getting ready to remove cones and reopen the road, when someone drove into the closed construction zone, hitting and killing him.

"Last year we had 55 people die in work zones in Georgia, 7,000 injuries and about 20,000 crashes. This is an exorbitant amount of crashes and injuries that we're seeing on our roads," Dale adds.

Safety experts want you to watch for workers, pay attention to changing traffic patterns and put down the cell phones. "Work zones are ever changing. Imagine you drove through a work zone Monday morning on your way to work and you drove back through that work zone Monday night. It may not even look the same," says Dale.

Rear end collisions are a big cause of the wrecks happening in work zones and the DOT says, it's because people are driving too fast and aren't able to stop once the traffic builds.

"We also need motorists to come to the table too and to be attentive drivers, and to obey that speed limit and drive as if they're driving through someone's workplace," states Dale.

The DOT is also still working hard on their campaign, "Drive Alert, Arrive Alive" and they're noticing some dangerous trends from 2017's crash numbers.

1,549 people died on Georgia's roads last year. That number is barely down from the year before, but it still averages more than 4 deaths a day. Of the people killed, the reports show 56 percent were not wearing their seatbelt. Some worry the popularity of rideshare services has some passengers forgetting to buckle up.

"You may not think that as a back seat passenger, it increases your safety but the trends we're seeing...if you're in a serious accident and you're in the back seat of the car you could be ejected, all sorts of things can happen.  56 percent of people are not wearing their seat belt and that's something we can fix immediately. It takes two seconds," says Dale.

The other scary statistic is that 44 percent of the wrecks were single-vehicle crashes, which are generally tied to distracted driving, drowsy driving or driving under the influence. They're drivers who ran off the road, hit an object or just lost control.

If Governor Nathan Deal signs the bill that passed the legislature this year, Georgia will become a hands-free state, meaning you will not be able to use your phone at all, unless with a hands-free device. State leaders hope it's a law that saves a lot of lives.

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