RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A new study has taken a look at the dangers faced by people who work on the side of the road.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says nearly four times more than reported are hit and killed.

These include tow truck drivers, mobile mechanics, emergency roadside technicians, and safety service patrols.

According to a release, this disturbing picture may be getting worse, with speed, impairment and distraction being the likely factors for many of the roadside crashes.

“Understanding the circumstances and causes for fatal crashes involving roadside workers is vital if we are serious about saving lives,” said Dr. David Yang, president and executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Many of these crashes can be avoided if drivers focus on driving and observe the law by slowing down and moving over when they see roadside assistance providers performing their duties.”

Researchers went through information from a variety of sources and found 123 roadside assistance providers had been killed by passing vehicles between 2015 and 2021.

The release says this figure dwarfs the approximate 34 noted in national crash data, and the discrepancy stems from a persistent failure of state crash report forms to capture that crash victims were roadside assistance providers.

Instead, these victims are frequently recorded as “pedestrians.”

Yearly total traffic fatalities increased over the study period, and the data suggests that roadside assistance provider fatalities increased even more.

Among the key findings, 89 percent of the crashes occurred in places with speed limits of 55 miles per hour or higher, mostly on interstates or other limited-access highways.

And 84 percent of the crashes took place during good weather without precipitation or other slippery road conditions.

Additionally, 34 percent of the crashes occurred during the day and 63 percent were during the night. Nearly two-thirds of the nighttime crashes occurred in areas without street lighting.

Finally, researchers found that in 63 percent of the crashes, the striking vehicles had already left the road and were on the shoulder or beyond before hitting the roadside worker.

More than a third of the drivers responsible who were tested for alcohol did come back positive, but nearly half of all the drivers were not tested for alcohol.

AAA offers certain steps to help protect roadside workers, such as vehicle-mounted electronic variable message signs and other countermeasures to prevent vehicles from hitting workers.

Roadside workers also need to prioritize work away from traffic and be equipped with strategies to avoid harm’s way. This can be achieved through training emphasizing the importance of not working or standing on the traffic-facing side whenever possible and minimizing the time spent on the traffic-facing side.

Finally, drivers should slow down and move over whenever possible to give more space to anyone working on the side of the road.

Virginia has updated its Move Over Law to include any stationary vehicle displaying emergency lights, hazard lights, flares or an emergency sign such as a reflective triangle.

“Let’s remember this study is about real people, not statistics,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s traffic safety and advocacy director.  “It’s a shared responsibility to solve this safety challenge.  Roadside workers and all of us who drive by them have to take action to move towards zero traffic deaths.”

To view the full study, click here.