Officials talk work zone safety following deadly West TN crash

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A devastating crash happened in West Tennessee early Wednesday morning in which two Tennessee Department of Transportation contractors were killed and a state trooper was injured when a tractor-trailer slammed into them on I-40.

The tragedy highlights the risks and dangers of the job.

“We know that could be us, that could be our families getting those calls. Everybody in this industry has had close calls. They know that the dangers are real,” said Ottie Payne, of Highway Markings, Inc.

Spending hours of their day so close to fast-moving traffic makes for a dangerous job. Highway Markings, Inc. warns their crews to always be aware of their surroundings and takes some important safety precautions.

“Barrels, cones, we have state troopers, crash trucks, message boards, anything to notify the motorist that there are people out on the road,” Payne said.

But sometimes, Payne said, that’s unfortunately not enough. TDOT stressed to drivers the importance of paying attention behind the wheel.

“Make sure you do not drive distracted, make sure you do not text and drive, make sure that you also adhere to the hands free vehicle phone policy as well, so that not only are you able to get home safely but your fellow motorists and also emergency personnel, TDOT workers, contractor workers, whoever it may be, that they can get home safely too,” Mark Nagi, with TDOT, said.

A reminder coming as well about the state’s Move Over Law.

It requires drivers to move over to the adjacent lane of traffic, when it’s safe to do so, or slow down for emergency vehicles working on the side of the road.

If found in violation of the law, you could be fined up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail.

We’ve learned the victims in Wednesday’s early morning crash, 30-year-old Justin Stafford and 22-year-old Jared Helton, both of Salyersville, Ky. worked with A & A Safety.

TDOT said the department is extremely saddened by the loss, writing: “Please work with us. Move over – slow down.”

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