NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Drivers may have noticed new work zone safety messages on interstates across Tennessee this week, along with prominent buildings and bridges lit in orange.
The messaging is a part of an annual spring campaign known as National Work Zone Awareness Week, which runs from April 17 to April 21. The campaign aims to increase awareness and safety in work zones as many road projects begin during the spring and summer months.
According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), there were 3,855 crashes in work zones last year, and 23 of those crashes were fatal. Work zones include everything from major interstate widening projects to pothole patching and mowing.
Both motorists and workers have been killed in crashes, with TDOT still mourning the loss of a 33-year-old bridge inspector who was struck and killed on Interstate 55 in Memphis last September.
Trent Johnston was inspecting the bridge when an oncoming vehicle hit him. In a news release, TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley called it “one of (his) hardest days” after he got the call that Johnston had been killed.
“So, this is very personal for me and the infrastructure community. Hundreds of our employees and contractors are working on our highways across the state each day,” Eley said. “We ask drivers to pay attention to signs, observe the hands-free law, reduce their speed, and move over when workers are present.”
In total, 113 workers have been killed in the line of duty since TDOT began keeping records in 1948. TDOT launched the “Work with Us – Move Over, Slow Down” safety campaign in 2017 after losing three workers in just eight months the previous year.
Johnston was the first to be killed in a work zone since 2016. As a part of National Work Zone Awareness week, TDOT is again asking drivers to “Work with Us” and move over and slow down for highway workers.
TDOT’s overhead Dynamic Message Signs will be displaying work zone safety messages on interstates in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville throughout the week.
Signs have also been posted at work zones across the state. In Nashville, the KVB bridge, state capitol and Nissan Stadium will be lit orange to raise awareness.
In order to increase workers’ safety, TDOT asks drivers to set their GPS in advance, secure their phones in a hands-free device and move over and slow down when there are vehicles with flashing lights or workers present.
- 📲 Download the WATE 6 news app to stay updated on the go
- 📩 Sign up for WATE email alerts for breaking news sent to your inbox
- 🚨 Find today’s top stories on WATE.com for Knoxville, TN and all of East Tennessee
State law requires drivers to move over into an adjacent lane of traffic when safe to do so, or slow down when approaching emergency vehicles, including tow trucks, highway maintenance vehicles, solid waste vehicles, utility vehicles, or any responder vehicle with flashing lights.
When the law passed in 2006 as a part of the Failure to Yield to Emergency Vehicles Law, Tennessee was the 30th state to enact a law creating protections for police, firefighters and other emergency, highway and utility workers.
Drivers who violate the Move Over Law in Tennessee can be fined up to $500 or spend up to 30 days in jail.