AUSTIN (KXAN) — MoPac Expressway construction workers say it was a close call for them when a wrong-way driver crashed into their construction site early Thursday morning.
Police say the driver was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes around 2:40 a.m. when he crashed into an excavator, a heavy piece of construction equipment, near Westover Road. The driver was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries and police charged him with a DWI.
“It’s a dangerous environment and our workers always have to be at the top of their game paying attention,” said Steve Pustelnyk, a spokesman with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. “They never know what will happen.”
Pustelnyk said a crew stationed near the Enfield Road exit spotted the driver headed in the wrong way. They radioed to the crew at Westover Road, telling them about the drunk driver. The crew was able to take cover and no one was injured.
Crews working on MoPac said they have seen an uptick in the number of drunk drivers on the road during early morning construction hours.
“This is not the first incident,” Pustelnyk said. “We have had a constant issue with drunk drivers and numerous accidents. This is a major problem in that corridor.”
Work zone accidents are a common occurrence in Texas. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2014, 19,393 accidents occurred in work zones. That same year 146 people were killed. In 2015, that number dropped to 138. TXDOT states the majority of the fatalities were motorists, not construction workers.
To prevent accidents in work zones, like the MoPac Improvement project, TXDOT asks drivers to slow down especially when it’s dark outside and workers are close to the road.
A law passed in 2013 makes it mandatory for drivers to move over or slow down when they are approaching work crews or emergency vehicles on the road or on the shoulder with their lights flashing. Traffic fines also double when workers are present and it can cost up to $2,000.
Police have not released the driver’s name at this time.
Wrong-way crashes in Austin from 2014-2016 YTD