NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – More than 100 Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) workers have died doing their jobs on Tennessee roads since the agency’s beginning.
This week, TDOT, along with other transportation agencies around the country, are reminding drivers to put down their phones, slow down and move over for construction crews in work zones.
It is a part of National Work Zone Awareness Week.
The department has added signage to remind drivers about construction zone safety and put a display of 109 construction barrels in the median on Interstate 40 near Demonbreun to represent the 109 workers killed in Tennessee work zones.
TDOT workers told News 2 that despite safety equipment and warning signs, drivers still speed through work zones literally feet, if not inches, away from crews filling potholes and doing other jobs.
“We are out here working to patch the pothole,” TDOT Highway Worker Donald Jackman said. “We have arrow boards up, we have crash attenuators, we have signage, and they are still trying to drive on the shoulder to get past us.”
Jackman is a husband, father of two and grandfather to two. He is also an Army veteran and former Clarksville police officer.
He is one of 400 TDOT workers in Middle Tennessee working in construction zones.
“Put your phone down when you see the blue lights or you see the amber lights,” he said. “Get off the phone and sit it on the seat.”
The fines are doubled for speeding through a work zone when workers are present and signs are posted.
“This is our paving season and there are going to be a lot more crews out working around this time of year,” TDOT Region 3 Community Relations Manager Kathryn Schulte said. “Every one of our workers has a life and we want them to be safe.
Also, the driver can be severely injured or killed if crashing into one of the safety trucks work crews have to act as a barrier to traffic.
“All it takes is a little slip of the hand and then you turn someone’s world upside down,” TDOT Region 3 Community Relations Manager Kathryn Schulte said. “It is absolutely heartbreaking.”
On Wednesday, a driver crashed into a TDOT truck in a work zone on Interstate 65 near McEwen Drive. The driver of the car was injured, but no TDOT workers got hurt. It is possible the driver fell asleep according to people on the scene.