‘Brake for Jake’; Alabama widow shares safety message during Work Zone Awareness Week


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – This week is Work Zone Awareness Week as transportation leaders hope to reduce the number of deaths and injuries in construction zones.

According to the Alabama Department of Transportation, there were 2,349 work area accidents in 2021, including 17 fatalities and 420 wrecks that resulted in injury.

Family members who have lost loved ones hope awareness campaigns will continue to help.

“Brake for Jake. That’s what we say. Brake for Jake,” said Somer Smith, who lost her husband in a construction accident in 2016.

Jacob Smith, 35, died after being punched and killed in Morgan County. Smith was simply doing his job as an employee of ALDOT.

“When you pass work zones and you don’t move or slow down, you put people’s loved ones at risk, you could potentially take a brother, sister, mother, father,” said Somer. Black-smith.

The couple had twins at the time of Jacob’s death. Somer Smith spoke about the difficulty of losing his other half, leaving the children to grow up without their father.

“It’s so hard not having a partner to help you with things and love you and hold your hand or hug you when you’re sad,” Smith said.

Smith has joined ALDOT for workplace awareness campaigns in the past. She shared a picture of a billboard with her husband’s photo and the phrase “Brake for Jake.”

Construction zone law in Alabama is stricter after lawmakers passed changes in 2021.

Now drivers are fined $250 or double the normal fine for any traffic violation in a construction zone when workers are present. Previously, fines only covered speeding.

The Smith family knows that speed is only part of the equation.

“Looking at your phone, being distracted, playing with the radio, it could take a second and you could veer off course and you could hurt someone or kill someone,” Smith said.

With so many road projects underway, Somer Smith doesn’t want orange cones and barrels to be commonplace, but rather serve as an important reminder that the area is full of workers trying to settle in with their families.

Like James.

“I would tell him his kids are doing great and we all miss him and wish he was here with us,” Somer Smith said.

According to ALDOT, work area accidents, work area accidents with fatalities and work area accidents with injuries have all decreased slightly compared to 2020 figures.

2021 was the third year in a row that work area accidents decreased and was the lowest number since 2013.

Still, ALDOT wants to see the numbers improve even more.

“These recent numbers show that work zone safety is improving,” said Allison Green, coordinator of ALDOT Drive Safe Alabama. “But there is still work to be done, because every injury and death represents lives that have been changed forever. The men and women who work on our roads deserve a safe working environment. The best way to protect everyone is to obey the speed limit and be careful. »

For more information on National Work Zone Awareness Week, click here.


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