NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s a troubling trend on Tennessee roads – cars barreling into four Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Help Trucks in a month.
Tennessee adopted the Move Over Law in 2006 after three TDOT workers died, but the crashes are continuing to happen.
“We have our crews on the roadway each and every day assisting with maintenance; you’ll see them patching potholes,” explained Mark Nagi, a TDOT spokesperson. “Specifically when you see those yellow TDOT Help Trucks, their main and only responsibility is to try to keep motorists safe.”
The word “HELP” etched into the side of their trucks isn’t just there for decoration; everyday crews work to assist drivers on the side of the road. Now, they are dealing with a hurtle they rarely see coming.
“What we have seen over the past few weeks especially is an uptick in the number of crashes that have occurred involving our TDOT Help Trucks,” Nagi said.
So far this month, four Help Trucks have been hit while assisting drivers. Photos from one crash show the damage after a TDOT crew was assisting a broken-down vehicle on the side of the road when the Help Truck was hit from behind. According to TDOT, the driver of the car told Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) officials he had fallen asleep while behind the wheel.
The crash happened on I-40 West at mile marker 370, one mile from the Watt Road exit in Knox County.
“It’s certainly scary. I think that quite often when we’re driving 50, 60 miles an hour, cars are made so well now that you don’t think of yourself going a high rate of speed, but 50-60 miles an hour is extremely fast,” said Nagi. “If you’ve ever been on the roadway and had a car go past you only a foot or two away at that type of speed, you can see just how frightening it is and this is something that our TDOT Help Truck drivers have to deal with each and every day.”
So far this year, THP has responded to more than 2,000 work zone crashes. The majority of them happen during the weekday. More specifically, a lot of crashes just so happen to occur Tuesdays at around 3 p.m.
“We always say the safest place that a motorist can be, that a driver can be is actually inside their vehicle. Well our Help Truck folks, they obviously have to leave the safety of their vehicles to assist with these motorists. Again, it’s extremely dangerous work,” Nagi said.
The driver of the latest vehicle that struck a TDOT truck is now facing several charges, including reckless endangerment, having an unregistered vehicle, and improper use of registration.
TDOT officials are reminding drivers that the Move Over Law was passed in 2006. The penalty for violating the law in Tennessee carries the possibility of up to 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of up to $500.