MoDOT says they’re seeing an increase in work zone crashes

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- The Missouri Department of Transportation says in recent months, there's been an increase in the number of traffic crashes happening in work zones.

Road crews want drivers to pay attention and slow down.

It's the start of National Work Zone Awareness Week, and as road construction moves into high gear this spring, MoDOT wants motorists to stay alert.

"People just don’t know how to put their phones down," said Mike Surber, a MoDOT maintenance worker injured in a recent crash. "They're putting on make up or eating or reading. They are just distracted by something else. We have families that we want to go home to as well."

Just in the last six months, workers from one MoDOT center in Kansas City have been involved in six work zone crashes.

Three of the crashes happened in December and those workers have yet to get back to the job.

Surber just returned to work after suffering whiplash and back injuries in January, when a distracted driver slammed into the crash cushion of his truck, which was protecting a crew patching potholes.

"I watched him come up, hit me," Surber said. "I hit my panic lights. I did everything in my power to get him to get the attention to see to get over. When he hit me, he pushed me over 100 feet."

Last year, eight people died in work zone crashes across the Show-Me state. Since 2000, 18 MoDOT workers have been killed while on duty. The agency says many of those deaths could have been avoided if motorists would pay attention and watch for workers.

The injuries, from minor to serious, don't have to happen if drivers simply slow down and read the road signs.

That's why now, you'll see signs saying work zones are also no phone zones. The agency wants to eliminate distractions that often put lives in danger.