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Chattanooga officer survives work zone-related crash, caution to other drivers

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Photo from Chattanooga PD Twitter. Photo from Chattanooga PD Twitter.
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

A Chattanooga Police Captain involved in a traffic crash said he's lucky to be alive.

The crash happened Wednesday afternoon on Hwy 27 near the Manufacturer's Road exit in a construction zone. 

The officer turned on his emergency lights and stopped to move a wheelbarrow out of the left lane of traffic.

Captain Roger Gibbens said he was trying to make the work zone safer for others. He got out of his car to safely move the wheelbarrow and to alert TDOT of the traffic hazard.

But that's when he saw his car get smashed by another vehicle.

"So I go like this to say "dispatch, have TDOT come and pick up this wheelbarrow, and I hear screeching," Capt. Gibbens said, "I can't see anything because the smoke. There's so much smoke from the tires and the brakes failing on this vehicle."

Capt. Gibbens clung to the median wall as a truck carrying a trailer slammed into his patrol car. He walked away with only a few scratches but his patrol car was totaled.

"I had several people say you had an angel watching over you or god was watching you or whatever and I can only agree. I was fortunate, very very fortunate," he said.

Looking at the damage--- Gibbens thinks if he was still inside his car when the crash happened, things would have ended differently.

"And then I started thinking about my granddaughters and my wife, and how bad this could have been."

It's a startling reminder for Gibbens and all drivers: to be aware of the state's Move Over Law and the dangers of speeding in work zones.

"So slow down, don't drive distracted, and if you see any flashing lights, if they're behind you, you slow down and move to the right. If they're in front of you, you slow down and move away from those flashing lights," Capt. Gibbens said.

READ MORE | CPD officer involved in a car crash

The driver told police he was going about 65 mph in the 45 mph work zone. The driver of the truck is charged with Reckless Driving, Failure to Exercise Due Care, Seat Belt Violation, Driver's License Law and Financial Responsibility.

Tennessee's Move Over Law requires drivers to change lanes, if it is safe to do so, to move away from emergency and utility vehicles on the side of the road.

CPD said the speed limit is 45, and the driver was likely going 65, which only saves a driver about 25 seconds per mile.

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