TDOT worker injured in work zone wreck cautions drivers - WSMV Channel 4

TDOT worker injured in work zone wreck cautions drivers

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The Tennessee Department of Transportation wants to remind drivers of the dangers of work zones.

Road construction happens year-round in Tennessee, but this week brings with it a warning to pay more attention to what happens on the other side of those orange barrels.

"We just want to make our roads safer for Tennessee," said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer.

TDOT workers put their lives at risk every day, and one man knows that danger all too well.

"Texting while driving? You're stupid. Don't do it," Michael Hill said.

Hill has reason to say what he does. He was nearly killed while working on a Tennessee road when a driver did the wrong thing.

"The main thing is pay attention. There's human beings out there. There's not just robots out there working, doing whatnot. They're human beings with families," Hill said.

In 1995, just two weeks into his job with TDOT, Hill found himself in a work zone, then woke up in a hospital bed.

"I started looking around and I went, 'Hmm,' you know. Found out I had lost my left leg," Hill said.

A tractor-trailer barreled through the work zone at more than 70 mph.

Another worker died, and Hill walked away with a prosthetic leg and new purpose.

"I died three times on the table. I was the worst trauma case Vanderbilt ever had. And I made it," Hill said.

This week, TDOT marks Work Zone Safety Week, a yearly push to remind drivers of the dangers.

"Work zones are an area that come up on you that you might be unaware of. A driver may be looking down at a text or changing his radio station. The next thing you know, it may be too late," Schroer said.

Distracted driving could be the biggest risk, and speed is another.

"I drive through a work zone, first thing I do is slow down. I see blue lights, I slow down," Hill said. "Not only because it's the law, but because it's the right thing to do."

State law allows authorities to fine drivers caught speeding in a work zone an additional $250 to $500.

The state keeps tabs on the number of citations issued in a work zone. In 2005, troopers issued more than 20,000 work zone citations, but that number dropped to 5,000 in 2012.

Channel 4 News asked about the steep decline, but so far the Tennessee Department of Safety has not provided a reason for the drop.

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