Distractions are all too common when driving, but according to one study, they increase the risk for a crash or near-crash in highway work zones by 29 times. Residents of Arizona should know that every 5.4 minutes in this country, there is a crash in a highway work zone.

The narrow lanes, the reduced speed limits and the tendency of many drivers to ignore that speed limit already make highway work zones a dangerous place. This study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri, shows just how important it is to pay attention to the road at all times. The duration for which drivers are distracted makes no difference to the crash risk.

Sending a text, making a phone call, adjusting the radio, eating, drinking or conversing with a passenger: Any number of things can distract a driver. None of these should be underestimated. Sending a text, for example, will distract drivers for approximately five seconds, during which time they could cover the length of a football field at 55 mph.

There are various behavioral countermeasures that state transportation agencies can implement to improve driver safety, especially in work zones. These include better public education about the dangers and laws banning texting and other phone use. The study, being based on naturalistic driving data, could help toward implementation of these measures.

When car accidents are the result of negligence, as most highway work zone crashes are, they may form the basis for a personal injury claim. Perhaps the victim was another driver or an employee in the work zone. Regardless of what the situation is, it may be wise to hire a lawyer before filing a claim because auto insurance companies are often aggressive in denying payment. A lawyer may speak on victims’ behalf at the negotiation table or in the courtroom.