AUSTIN, Texas - Each day at work, Greg Stephens risks his life, doing the work he loves.
"We never know what's coming our way, we have a job to do," he said.
He recalls a night when he was paving a portion of I-35 in San Marcos, when the cop helping with the closure alerted them of a high speed chase coming their way.
"He jumped up and got to us as quickly as he could. It gave us just enough time to get out of the road. He came right through our work zone, equipment, somehow avoided everyone and the equipment," said Stephens.
It was an extremely close call that almost left Stephens another statistic. Last year 244 people in Texas died in work zone crashes.
"That’s 33 percent increase from the previous year. That spike in the number of deaths is unacceptable. These were victims, fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, and friends," said Marc Williams, TxDOT executive director.
Overall, there were just more than 26,000 work zone crashes, a startling number that first responders want to reverse. Each of the cones situated at Austin's TxDOT office represents those deaths Thursday morning.
"Three of the cones with the hard hats represent the three road construction maintenance workers that were also killed last year in work zone crashes," said Tucker Ferguson, district engineer.
Two of those hard hat worker deaths happened right here in Austin. TxDOT is kicking off National Work Zone Awareness Week, and they also are calling attention to the move over law, which applies to all first responders.
"Both us and all of our public safety partners in Austin and Travis County have all had some of our vehicles struck on the side or the road by drivers who did not move over or slow down. Some of those were very close calls, we almost lost some folks," said Captain Christa Stedman, ATCEMS.
The top causes of these preventable crashes are speeding and distracted driving, things authorities hope can change as they educate more on the issue.
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