Two motorists were killed this week in a tragic accident involving a tractor-trailer, a highway patrol cruiser and a TDOT truck.
The accident in Bradley County occurred shortly before 3:30 a.m. Monday just north of the Charleston exit on 75. A road worker and the driver of the semi were killed.
Knoxville car accident lawyers understand that the fall season brings a confluence of risk to Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountain Nation Park region. Road crews are racing to get work completed before cold weather; school buses are back on the road; leaf-peepers will fill lodges and cabins through the busy autumn tourist season; and even as it gets darker earlier we are feeling that autumn chill in the air that signals the beginning of cold winter weather.
Organizations like the National Safety Council are already reporting the number of serious and fatal accidents has increased nationwide with the economic recovery. Through July, more than 20,000 motorists were killed on the nation's roads this year -- up nearly eight percent from last year. Tennessee is not bucking the trend, unfortunately, and the last three months of the year are typically the most dangerous.
Interstate 75 was closed for more than eight hours after the crash. Authorities say a 53-year-old Grainger County man was driving a semi load of live chickens through a marked construction zone when he slammed into a truck from the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The truck driver and a 28-year-old construction worker from Ohio were killed. The trucks also struck a trooper's cruiser, sending him to the hospital.
"They're risking their lives every day just doing their jobs and it's sobering," Jennifer Flynn, a TDOT spokesperson, told NBC3 News in Chattanooga.
TDOT said it is trying to do as much work as possible either at night or during other off-peak hours. And safety advocates are reminding motorists to obey the state's Move Over Law (T.C.A. 55-8-132).
-Motorists are required to move over and/or slow down when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle at the side of the road when emergency lights are activated. The law gives equal protection to recovery vehicles, highway maintenance vehicles and tow trucks.
-Violation is a Class B misdemeanor, which is a fairly serious charge punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
-Motorists may also face substantial fines for speeding in a marked road construction zone.
Speeds through such projects are lowered to give drivers and road crews more time to react. One such project here in Knoxville is the widening of State Route 62/Western Avenue, which started in 2010 and is not slated for completion until 12/31/2013, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Two lanes of traffic are being maintained (one in each direction) and the speed limit has been reduced to 40 mph. The Knoxville Police Department monitors traffic through the construction site.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 700 people are killed in highway construction zones each year. In 2008, a total of 11 people were killed in work-zone accidents in Tennessee.