TEMPLE — Sometime in the next two months, the Traffic Operations Division in Austin will conduct a test of variable speed limits in Texas, and one location will be in the Temple area, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
The purpose of the test is to see if traffic flow and driver safety can be improved by varying the speed limit in a congested area during different traffic conditions.
Temple will be the test location for construction conditions, according to TxDOT.
Speed appears to be an issue involved in Interstate 35 accidents and may also play a significant part in the accidents in work zones in 2013 and 2012, as documented by TxDOT.
“We have a lot of problems with people speeding and not paying attention,” said Trooper Harpin Myers, Department of Public Safety spokesman.
“We have signs, markers, reflectors, walls, barrels, flashing lights. … I don’t know what else we can do to get their attention to the fact there is a construction zone ahead,” Myers said. “Accidents in construction zones cause more damage, injuries and deaths. We have extra enforcement and troops out in the construction zones to try to keep people safe.”
Other law enforcement agencies assist the DPS, Myers said. “The walls are there to protect workers and drivers and to keep people from driving on the wrong side of the road. Construction workers want to go home at the end of the day, too.”
Four out of five deaths in work zones are drivers and passengers, not construction workers, according to TxDOT statistics. On Tuesday, a construction worker driving a roller was in an accident with an SUV on an access road south of Waco, according to TxDOT. The construction worker wasn’t injured, but the SUV’s driver was taken to the hospital to be checked out.
The cause of the accident wasn’t known by press time Wednesday.
The 20 active work zones along I-35 in Texas include almost 110 miles from north to south. That is the most work zones TxDOT has ever had on Interstate 35, according to TxDOT’s website.
The pathway through a work zone can be difficult to maneuver, as barrels and walls direct drivers through the maze of lane changes. Construction workers and heavy equipment may be a short distance away from vehicles.
The construction hasn’t changed the way police officers respond to calls, according to the Temple Police Department. Officers usually use main roads, the loop and other routes, and rarely use I-35 to respond to calls for service.
Texas led all states in 2012 in work zone fatalities with 125, according to the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse. California was second with 67 deaths, and Florida was third with 51 deaths in work zones.
In 2013, there were 17,266 crashes in TxDOT work zones, resulting in 3,522 serious injuries and 115 fatalities.
Nineteen people died in 15 fatal crashes involving speed in 2012. Another 113 crashes caused 197 serious injuries in the 448 crashes involving speed.
Work zone accidents totaled 16,716 in 2012, according to TxDOT, and 116 fatal accidents resulted in 132 fatalities in those work zones.