‘BRAKE FOR JAKE’: Colbert County family urges people to move over, slow down in work zones

MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. -  It's almost two years to the day that a Colbert County family lost a husband and father in a tragic crash on the side of I65. Jacob Smith, 35, who was working on a road project at the time, died in the accident. Now, Smith's parents live to share a message that could prevent others from dying.

"He could have been such an asset to the entire ALDOT, to the community, everything," Steve Smith, Jake's father, said. "He wanted to build safe roads."

But, an early morning crash on I-65 ended his journey on earth. It happened on April 14, 2016.

"At 4:45, there was a wreck," Smith said. "Then, we went into the turmoil that hasn't stopped. It hasn't stopped for two years now."

"There's a hole in our heart and in our family that will never be the same," Loudee Smith, Jake's mother, added.

According to the crash report, the incident that killed Jake was an accident. Two vehicles were traveling north on I-65. The SUV in the right lane tried to move to the left lane. The one in the left lane hit the back of the SUV as it moved over. That car kept moving and hit Jake and killed him. No one was charged.

"That inconvenience of slowing down for maybe a minute at the most is not worth speeding through there," Smith said. "They should never enter a work zone at a speed where they could, no matter what happens to them, that they go across those orange barrels and hit or kill somebody."

The speed limit is 70 miles per hour in the area where Jake was killed. The crash report shows vehicle one was traveling 75 miles per hour, the second car 70 miles per hour. Now, Jake's family just wishes the drivers made different choices earlier in their journey.

"If they had been following the law, slowing down, merging, my son would be here today," Smith said.

Alabama's Move Over Law states people must make a lane change if they can, safely. If not, they are to slow down to a "reasonable speed."

"Every time they go through a work zone, say 'see those orange barrels? You gotta slow down for those, those are people out there,'" Smith pleaded.

Next time you see those orange barrels, remember to slow down for the people who make it possible for drivers to move forward.

Along with his parents, Jake left behind a wife, two children, and two brothers. Steve and Loudee Smith said they would love to work with other families who lost someone in work zone accidents.

If you would like to get in touch with them, email reporter Courtney Crown at courtney.crown@whnt.com.