A memorial sign erected for a 13-year-old Rutherford County boy killed on Interstate 24 in Smyrna will be removed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Clifton Braunwalder was struck by a car on April 10 as he changed a flat tire for his mother under the Sam Ridley Parkway overpass.
Tina Wilson has been charged with vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault in connection with the fatal wreck. Wilson fled the scene but was arrested a short time later in Nashville.
A memorial sign with Braunwalder’s name and 2010-2014 was put up near the site of the fatal crash.
TDOT told News 2 the sign is illegal because it is on state property.
Typically with roadside memorials, TDOT will let them stay if they are not distracting.
However; TDOT, told News 2 the sign for Braunwalder, which looks like a state sign, is too close to the roadway and drivers have been slowing down to see it.
TDOT said those things make the sign an unsafe distraction.
“Roadside memorials are illegal, but we don’t take them down unless there is a safety issue,” TDOT spokeswoman Heather Jensen said. “But we have to be concerned if there is a safety issue and we believe this one creates one.”
Also, TDOT installed signs must meet safety requirements for their construction. Specifically they are built to break apart if a car strikes the sign.
“We don’t know how this sign was made or what it is made of,” Jensen said. “We want to make sure all drivers are safe.”
She continued, “This was a very unfortunate and horrific accident.”
TDOT contacted Braunwalder’s family who told them a family friend paid for the sign to honor their son.
Typically TDOT will remove the roadside memorial and allow family members to come pick it up at a TDOT garage.
In Braunwalder’s case, TDOT will deliver the sign to his parents so they can place it on their property if they want to do so.