MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Data from the Tennessee Department of Transportation shows an alarming number of crashes are happening in work zones across the state.
From January 1 to September 30 this year, there were 502 crashes with seven fatalities. Another crash happened Wednesday morning along Interstate 40 near Airline, when a truck plowed into two TDOT contractors and a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper’s vehicle.
The trooper survived, but both contractors — 30-year-old Justin Stafford and 22-year-old Jared Helton — didn’t make it.
In a separate crash Wednesday morning in Bryant, Arkansas, a truck hit and killed two people and injured a police officer during a traffic stop.
Last month, a Memphis police officer was struck by a vehicle while responding to a crash on I-40 near Sycamore View.
In Tennessee, TDOT says there have been 14,082 crashes in work zones in the last five years, from Nov. 6, 2014 to Nov. 6, 2019. There were a total of 83 deaths and 5,464 injuries stemming from those crashes.
In 2018, the number of work zone crashes came in at 656, with 13 deaths and 183 injuries.
TDOT is currently testing a new system in which a driver-less vehicle tails road crews to create a buffer between them and traffic. They say it could be deployed within the next few years.
In the meantime, officials are urging drivers to obey the laws already on the books.
“If you can’t move over and do it safely, slow down,” THP Sgt. Chris Richardson said. “The law says you must do one of the two.”
Tennessee enacted its “Move Over Law” in 2006. The law states that when emergency or utility vehicles are present, drivers must move over to the adjacent lane of traffic if possible to do so safely. If not safe to move over, drivers must slow down.
The penalty for violating the “Move Over Law” in Tennessee is a maximum fine of $500 and up to 30 days in jail.