SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Members of Missouri’s Department of Transportation (MoDOT) along with community officials and members met together at the Transportation Management Center of the Ozarks to kick off the National Work Zone Awareness Week.

Steve Campbell, MoDOT’s southwest Engineer began the “work with us” week by talking about some work zone statistics.

“Since 2000, 34 MoDOT employees have been killed in the line of duty,” said Campbell. “Sixteen of those were inside a work zone. In 2021, our protective vehicles were struck 61 times, and that’s up from the year before.”

Campbell said In almost every incident, the driver was either driving distracted, fast or aggressive. He wants drivers to think about the people in the work zones.

“I wanna point out that each of these protective vehicles is driven by a person, an employee, somebody with a family,” said Campbell. “Somebody that wants to go home at the end of their shift and take care of their business and lives.”

April is considered the busiest time of year for work zones. To prepare drivers for upcoming work zones, MoDOT officials put out what’s called a sign package. Sign packages are light-up warnings, which crew leader Crystal Speak said can be missed if drivers are driving distracted.

“I was flagging, we had a full sign package up, it was a bright sunny day, and it was also a straight stretch of road, excellent sight,” said Speak. “This lady coming through never saw me one time, never saw one of our sign packages. She did a 360 in front of me, about hit me, and then jumped me for being in the road. I was standing there shaking my flags standing there the whole time.”

Sargent Mike McClure, with the state Highway Patrol’s Troop D, said the biggest trend he sees in fatal crashes is a lack of courtesy. There were 987 fatalities statewide in 2020 and 1,013 of them in 2021. McClure said it’s possible the fatalities will go up this year.

“Right now what I see on a day-to-day basis with those increases from year to date is we are anywhere from seeing a six to nine percent increase in fatalities,” said McClure. “So if that trend increases, we are gonna have more fatalities for 2022.”

McClure encouraged drivers to pay attention no matter the situation on the road.

“Even though a construction zone may not be active, it is still basically a funnel or a pinch point for traffic to merge into,” said McClure. “Show some courtesy and use those methods of staggering traffic so we can get through it safely.”

This even applies to drivers traveling late at night.

“Lots of things happen at night work, lots of moving components,” said Earl Wallace, a Springfield contractor. “You have trucks hauling equipment out, you have trucks hauling material out and you also have trucks hauling material in. You have to be extra careful on how those trucks are going to get to the site and away from the site.”

Work Zone Awareness Week will last until April 15th. Drivers are encouraged to look at the MoDOT Traveler Map to know where the local work zones are in Missouri.