Highway work zones seem to be a magnet for car crashes in Washington and across the U.S. In fact, crashes occur in these zones every 5.4 minutes. Narrow lanes and speeding are two factors that raise the risk for a crash and increase its severity, and a new study has shown how distracted driving poses the highest risk of all.

Researchers at the University of Missouri studied first-hand accounts of how drivers involved in a crash were interacting with their vehicle, the road and the environment prior to it. Records were taken from the Naturalistic Driving Study conducted as part of the Transportation Research Board’s second Strategic Highway Research Program and involved more than 3,000 drivers. Their conclusion was that inattentive drivers are 29 times more likely to have a collision or near-collision in a highway work zone.

The duration of a driver’s inattention made no difference. Drivers can be talking on the phone, sending a text, conversing with a passenger or adjusting the radio, and they will still be at risk. The study may prompt various state transportation agencies to implement behavioral countermeasures like texting bans and improvements in public education. The results may also be used as automakers continue in their efforts to develop driverless vehicles.

Many car collisions, more than can be reported by the police, involve distracted drivers. Those who are harmed by the actions of a distracted driver could seek compensation from that driver’s auto insurance company, but they may want a lawyer to evaluate their case before anything else.

A personal injury lawyer might hire crash investigators and medical professionals to help build the case up before heading off to negotiations. If negotiations don’t lead to the desired settlement, then the lawyer may take the case to court.