GALLIPOLIS FERRY — “Its cost us a lot,” Rusty Nott said, when asked what a roadside sign placed in memory of his daughter, the late Sarah Nott, means to him and wife, Brenda.
The sign was unveiled Wednesday along W.Va. 2 in Gallipolis Ferry near the site where Sarah lost her life in a automobile accident in 2014 at the age of 21. Her parents recalled how she had stopped at a convenience store along W.Va. 2 to buy something to eat that fateful day, and when leaving the establishment, her line of sight was obscured by vehicles that were parked in a way the Notts have vehemently maintained was illegal near the roadway. With traffic backing up behind her, Sarah attempted to ease on to the roadway when she was hit in her lane and later died from injuries sustained in the accident.
Sarah’s story is one many can relate to because, who hasn’t tried to see around a vehicle parked in a way that obscures vision, whether exiting a drive-thru or just pulling out of a convenience store to get gas, on a day that feels as ordinary as the last? Who hasn’t done the best they could do pulling out of that situation, hoping there was nothing coming in the other direction? The one thing many of those “lucky” people don’t know, besides how lucky they were that no other car was coming in that other direction, is that those vehicles parked in a way that blocked that line of sight were likely parked illegally in the state of West Virginia.
There is an existing law on the books that states vehicles cannot park within so many feet of the state highway. As Brenda pointed out, many people may think they are standing in a parking lot, when it fact they are not and are on state highway property, at least for so many feet. The no parking sign at the site of Sarah’s accident states there is to be no parking within eight feet of the pavement. The Notts have been raising awareness of this law which already exists to protect motorists and to push for enforcement of the law so this doesn’t happen to another family.
Delegate Jim Butler (R-14th) attempted to get an amendment to the bill to committee in the last legislative session without luck and plans to try again in the next session. The Notts also support an amendment that creates more severe criminal penalties for violating the law, particularly when death occurs, and a specific way of marking the areas where there is to be no parking.
Rusty said since his daughter’s death, the West Virginia Division of Highways has made improvements to the W.Va. 2 area where Sarah’s accident took place, saying WVDOH had “done all in their power to improve this area” within the law that currently exists. On Wednesday, feet away from Rusty were now clearly marked “no parking” areas with concrete beams and painted sections in the very area where his daughter lost her life.
The amendment as introduced earlier this year, read: “For business, industrial or mercantile establishments where the driveway entrance or access is more than fifty feet wide and is along a roadway with a speed limit of more than forty-five miles per hour, and there is apparent danger, in the judgment of the commissioner, due to heavy traffic or other circumstances created by vehicles being parked on the state right-of-way, the commissioner shall place no parking signs at each end of the driveway entrance and clearly mark that right-of-way with yellow paint with the words “no parking” and hash marks to clearly notify the public that parking is forbidden. The commissioner may also mark such right-of-ways at specific locations as suggested by county commissions.”
In terms of penalties, the proposed amendment read: “Any person violating the ‘no parking’ prohibitions of subsection (b) of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $100; upon a second conviction within one year thereafter, shall be fined not more than $200; and upon a third or subsequent conviction, shall be fined not more than $500: Provided, That where the no parking violation results in a serious injury or death to someone other than the person violating this subsection (b), that person violating the no parking prohibition is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned in a state correctional facility not less than one year, or both fined and imprisoned.”
When asked what Sarah, a junior honors student at Marshall University, would think about this activism from her parents, Brenda said, she might’ve felt uncomfortable with the attention but that “she wouldn’t want someone to get hurt over stupidity.”
Brenda added: “Sarah never wanted attention, but if she knew it could help save a life, she’d say, ‘You go, Mom.’”
Brenda said she shared a favorite Bible verse with Sarah in James 4:17 “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
“Sarah knew to do the right thing and the right thing is to fix this,” Brenda said. “This (the roadside sign) is a reminder to everybody, we’re out here on the road together. Slow down, stop, think about what you’re doing.”
Brenda went on to say if anyone finds themselves in the situation her daughter was in, to know the law, that if someone is within that right-of-way, parking in a way that blocks a driver’s line of sight of the road, they are breaking the law and that could have dire consequences.
Joining Brenda and Rusty at the sign’s unveiling were Sarah’s siblings and family, as well as Butler and Sheriff Greg Powers showing support for the amendment that has been dubbed, “Sarah Nott’s Law.”
The Notts worked with WVDOH to install the sign along W.Va. 2 which reads: “Please drive safely. In memory of Sarah Lucretia Nott.”
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.