DOT blames distracted driving for high number of work zone fatalities

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Roadwork is finally starting to wrap up for the construction season throughout eastern Iowa but that doesn't mean drivers should stop worrying about work zones.

The Iowa Department of Transportation reported 10 work zone related deaths in 2017.

That's down slightly from 2016 but still a bit higher than the past two decades.

This year, the Iowa DOT says they've counted at least 4 work zone related deaths, but the construction season still isn't over.

The Iowa DOT uses technology called Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) tools.

Everything from cameras, sensors, and dynamic message signs help alert drivers of construction zones and accidents on the highways.

When traffic is backed up, for example, the DOT will receive a text message or phone call.

"We'll get an alert into our 511 system and then we can blast it out through the 511 system but also put messages in our overhead boards, hey there's a slowdown ahead, hopefully then avoiding rear-end crashes, those rear-end crashes are actually the most common type of crash in a work zone," says Cathy Cutler with the Iowa DOT.

But despite increased technology, the Iowa DOT says they are still seeing a number of accidents in these construction zones.

"We really are seeing an increase in crashes, we do look at the 10-year average. Last year was a little bit better year. Unfortunately, I think people are driving with more distractions whether it's their cell phone or other technology in the car," says Cutler.

Again the Iowa DOT wants to remind people to slow down in work zones, stay off your phone, and most importantly pay attention to the roads.