A driver charged with DUI in a hit-and-run that killed a state highway worker has been sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Thomas Stafford (pictured) could have been sentenced up to 50 years.

A state trooper asked that of the judge, and so did the mother of 21-year-old Nicholas Johnson.

The DOT worker was sweeping debris along the side of I-20 in Lexington County in December when Stafford's vehicle struck Johnson, then kept going until friends pulled up next to him and told him what had happened.

The Highway Patrol says Stafford was not alert because he was drunk.

His attorney says he had over medicated himself with anti-depressants before the incident.

Stafford tearfully apologized when he took the stand.

He said he didn't know his license had been suspended and that he wasn't trying to flee the scene.

At the time of the mishap, Stafford was out on bond for another DUI charge where he mowed down a mailbox.