Be careful around those construction zones when you are driving, and as a passenger, tell that driver to be careful.

There is good reason to exercise caution, especially in Utah with its third-place ranking in the nation as the deadliest state for construction zone crashes.

The catch here is that it is not the workers who are being killed, but motorists, according to an analysis by Lending Tree.

A popular lender for homes and autos, the company said Utah earned its dire ranking based on the number of fatal accidents and the percentage of those that occurred in work or construction zones.

Utah specifically had 2,399 fatal crashes from 2012 to 2021, 79 of which were fatalities that happened in a work or construction zone, racking up a percentage of 3.3%.

The study said although Utah officials have tried to increase safety regulations by requiring highway maintenance vehicles to display flashing amber lights to avoid collisions in work zones, there’s still too many accidents with fatal outcomes.

Who came in first?

Texas took the dubious No. 1 spot for these collisions with 33,436 fatal crashes, of which 1,424 involved work or construction zones, logging a percentage of 4.3%. Nebraska was second, with Wyoming and Nevada rounding out the top five.

Key findings in the analysis show:

  • Fatal work zone crashes rose 57.1% nationwide between 2012 and 2021.
  • Regionally, the West saw the highest increase in deadly crashes in work zones at 76.9%, and the South was close behind at 72.1% over the period. The Northeast experienced a 27.5% decrease.
  • Large trucks were involved in nearly 3 out of 10 deadly crashes in work zones, attributable to their size, ability to maneuver and also trying to avoid passenger cars that may be speeding.

The study said the largest year-over-year increase in deadly work zone crashes in this period was in 2019, when they jumped 13.8%. Conversely, fatal work zone crashes decreased year over year only twice in the period examined: 2013 and 2018. Those years corresponded with a relatively low number of speeding-related fatalities.

Lending Tree listed a number of precautions motorists can take, including minimizing distractions. Distracted driving habits, such as texting, aren’t just dangerous — they were responsible for over 3,500 deaths in 2021, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration .

“You should never text and drive to begin with,” said Rob Bhatt, LendingTree auto insurance expert and a licensed insurance agent.

He also advised motorists to slow down and give road workers extra space such as moving to a different lane if possible. He added that since work zones can be dangerous, it is important to keep alert and look for instructions from flaggers or potential hazards.

John Gleason, spokesman with the Utah Department of Transportation, said it is incredibly important for motorists to be aware of traffic pattern changes caused by construction zones, especially as construction ramps up for the summer.

“The nature of work zones is that they’re constantly changing. So you may have driven a certain stretch of road hundreds of times before but if it’s under construction, there could be traffic shifts, lane closures, reduced speed limits — things change all the time in work zones,” he said. “You really want to make sure that you’re obeying the rules of the road by slowing down, and making sure that you’re keeping yourself safe, as well as everyone else out on the road.”