BALTIMORE (WJZ) — With work zone-related crashes injuring hundreds of people each year in Maryland, state transportation officials are challenging drivers to take extra care when they see orange cones on the road.

From 2016 to 2020, Maryland saw more than 7,700 such crashes, which killed 46 people and injured 3,263 others, according to figures compiled by the state. Nearly half of those killed were drivers of vehicles involved in the wrecks.

READ MORE: Two Teenagers Shot, One Killed, At Inner Harbor During Memorial Day Weekend, Police Say

The Maryland Department of Transportation said the leading factors contributing to those crashes were distracted drivers, speeders and tailgaters.

“Some of the areas that we are trying to work towards is to try to change the behavior of drivers,” said Andre Futrell, deputy administrator for district operation for the state Department of Transportation.

That message is particularly relevant now, with this week being recognized as both National Work Zone Awareness Week and this month being recognized Work Zone Safety Month in Maryland.

READ MORE: Jarrettsville Young Marines Honor Fallen Heroes, Prepare For Memorial Day

According to MDOT statistics, 80% of those killed in work zone-related crashes are the drivers and passengers of the vehicles involved. MDOT said its workers are also vulnerable, with a hard hat and vest providing their only protection.

Ronnie Wright is an MDOT highway worker. He knows all too well how dangerous it can be. After all, he was working on the side of Interstate 70 when a truck barreled into him.

“I was thrown up into the steering wheel, into the dashboard,” Wright recalled.

Fortunately, Wright is okay. But he said slowing down and keeping your eye out for orange cones posted in work zones can be the difference between life and death.

MORE NEWS: Baltimore City And Surrounding Communities Experiencing High Community Transmission Of COVID-19

“Like everybody else just trying to get home to their family at night, we’re out here doing the same thing,” Wright said.

Rachel Menitoff