University Boulevard Bridge
Orange and yellow barrels mark work zone on University Boulevard bridge over the Capital Beltway. (Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)

Last month, John C. Kahl, 54,  a state highway subcontractor was hit and killed by a pickup truck on Interstate 695 in Baltimore County. A couple of months ago, Eddie L. Gilyard, 50, who worked for the Maryland State Highway Administration, died when a car hit his work truck on the same roadway. Last June, Erick Meekins Sr., 40, was killed by a car while closing a traffic lane on State Highway 216 near Scaggsville.

But drivers seem to have fallen in line with Maryland’s campaign to reduce speeding in highway construction zones. Last year, the mobile speed camera units stationed in work zones issued 349,776 tickets, worth nearly $14 million. That’s a sharp decline from 2012, when the cameras doled out 417,691 work zone tickets. And the 2012 number was far less than the number generated in 2011: 529,367.

“The goal is zero traffic deaths in work zones, and we missed the mark in 2013 and already in 2014,” said John B. Townsend II of AAA. “During the past 13 months we have seen an uptick in the deaths of highway workers in work zones. It’s a sobering reminder that motorists have an even greater responsibility to drive safely in work zones.”

The Maryland crackdown on speeders in construction zones began in 2009, a year after seven people were killed and 1,067 others injured in more than 2,000 crashes in work zones around the state. Safety experts say that while a primary focus of such efforts is the protection of highway workers, even in hours when those workers are absent the detours, orange traffic barrels that squeeze lanes and rough road surfaces make negotiating the zones hazardous for drivers.

The state averages 2,237 crashes a year in work zones each year.

“Motorists, while keeping consistent with the flow of traffic, should maintain a safe distance between vehicles ahead, traffic barriers, construction workers and equipment,” Townsend said.