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Family urging safe driving through highway work zones after losing loved one


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    NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) — It’s National Work Zone Awareness Week, and Wednesday marks five years since a TDOT worker was hit and killed on the side of I-40 in the Midstate.

This week, there’s a special focus on safe driving through highway work zones.

“It’s not just a TDOT worker you’re scooting over for. You’re scooting over for somebody,” Sarah Tolentino whose father was killed on the job.

Almost five years ago, David Younger was going down I-40. He saw a crew needing help with a flat tire in Hickman County and stopped.

“Of course, that’s my dad’s characteristics and personality. Always stopping to help, doing whatever he can to help others,” Tolentino said.

Out of nowhere, Tolentino said a semi hit and killed her father.

“No reason that it should’ve happened. It was just a careless driver,” Tolentino said.

News4 also spoke with Brandon Leslie who is a road tech for TDOT.

“Please for God’s sake, put the phone down, pay attention,” Leslie said.

Leslie said he’s had plenty of close calls on the job.

“You just got to watch your back,” Leslie said.

Last month, crews were making emergency pothole repairs on I-24 in Antioch. That’s when a pickup truck slammed into the work zone.

“As it hit, the first thing you hear is the impact and then you hear the tires skid then you hear the crumbling and next thing you know, you see the truck nearly turned,” Leslie said.

Leslie wasn’t hurt, but one of his co-workers was from the crash.

Last year in Tennessee, 23 people died in work zone crashes including contract workers, drivers and passengers.

“If you see one of us, please, move over,” Leslie said.

Both Leslie and Tolentino hope that message will be heard during National Work Zone Awareness Week and beyond.

“If you can make one person move over or one person slows down then maybe you can save a life,” Tolentino said.

It’s why Tolentino wears an orange ribbon pin and has a sticker that says “Work with Us” on her car.’’

This week comes with anxiety and sadness for Tolentino, but focusing on precious memories helps ease the pain.

“That’s what you have to do to make it through each day is you have to find a little piece of joy to focus on,” Tolentino said.

2016 was the last time a TDOT worker was killed on the job. That year three workers died including two from Middle Tennessee.

The penalty for violating the Move Over Law in Tennessee is a fine of up to $500 and possibly up to 30 days in jail.

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