Orange barrel ‘sculptures’ remind El Pasoans to drive safe in work zones

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Driving along Montana Avenue on the Far Eastside, you may have noticed a prehistoric creature or a friendly character near the Spaghetti Bowl/Interstate 10 in Central El Paso warning drivers to stay safe while driving.

Safe-T-Rex and Work Zone Willy are “sculptures” made by maintenance staff out of previously hit orange work zone barrels to help reminds drivers to drive safely, especially around work zones, by slowing down and leaving the phone alone. There were more than 789 traffic accidents in work zones in the El Paso district in 2020, which resulted in four fatalities and three serious injuries.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas work zone fatalities increased 9 percent in 2020, despite less traffic due to the pandemic.

Work Zone Willy. Photo courtesy of TXDOT El Paso.

“We know driving through work zones can be challenging,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “There can be extra congestion, slow-moving heavy equipment, temporary barriers and vehicles that make sudden stops. We can’t stress enough how important it is to give driving your full attention and slow down — for your own safety and that of the people who work alongside the road.”

The Texas Mutual Insurance Company, which helps employers prevent workplace incidents and their consequences, is partnering with TxDOT to promote safe driving. The “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” campaign outlines five key steps drivers can take to safely navigate a work zone:

  1. Slow down. Follow the posted speed limit and drive to conditions. Unsafe speed is one of the main causes of crashes in work zones.
  2. Pay attention. Avoid distractions, keep your mind on the road and put your phone away.
  3. Watch out for road crews. The only protective gear they wear is a vest, a hard hat and safety boots.
  4. Don’t tailgate. Give yourself room to stop in a hurry if you need to. Rear-end collisions are the most common kind of work zone crashes.
  5. Allow extra time. Road construction can slow things down.

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 can also result in a $2,000 fine. State law requires drivers to move over a lane or reduce their speed to 20 mph below the posted speed limit when approaching a TxDOT vehicle, emergency vehicle, law enforcement, tow truck or utility vehicle stopped with flashing lights activated on the roadside.

For local and breaking news, weather alerts, video and more, download the FREE KTSM 9 News App from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.