POINT PLEASANT — This was a bittersweet week for one local family.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed Sarah Nott’s Law on Tuesday which was the culmination of two years of work for Sarah’s parents, Rusty and Brenda of Point Pleasant. Shortly after learning the governor had signed the bill into law, Brenda passed away on Thursday after a long illness.
Sarah was killed in March 2014. She had stopped at a convenience store on W.Va. 2 to buy something to eat and when leaving the establishment, her line of sight was obscured by vehicles that were parked in a way the Notts 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.
This new law applies to areas or entrances to commercial driveways, businesses and industrial properties, which have an entrance wider than 50 feet, and where those entrances join a road where the speed limit is 45 mph or more. It calls for no parking signs, or paint to denote no parking, or both. These signs and markings will be in the areas where parking is prohibited so as to maintain a line of sight for drivers. It also allows for misdemeanor fines if found in violation of the law. The no parking markings and signs, will also assist law enforcement in ticketing drivers and alerting drivers of where the state highway right-of-way ends.
Delegate Jim Butler, R-Gallipolis Ferry, worked with the Notts to develop the law. On Friday, Butler gave Brenda credit for helping develop the legislation.
“I sat down with Brenda several times, she came up with the concept of this and told me what she wanted,” Butler said. “This was a law she helped craft.”
Butler commended both the Notts for coming to Charleston on multiple occasions to meet with legislators and “keeping the pressure on” to make something happen and get it passed.
“She was emotional and passionate about her presentation in 2014,” Butler said, adding shortly after that, the go ahead was given by a committee chair to have the bill drawn up and introduced, though it took two legislative terms to get it to a vote and passed by both houses, which happened during this most recent session.
The Notts got signatures, petitions and went to local government entities in both Mason County and Cabell County to get support and get people on board. Sheriff Greg Powers also offered support by writing a letter to the legislature saying markings showing the right-of-way would make it easier for law enforcement to see who was in violation and enforce the legislation.
Butler said he and his family had heard from Rusty on Friday who said Brenda was aware the governor had signed the bill into law before she passed.
“How tragic and ironic it is, that Brenda dies, soon after the governor signs the bill,” Butler said. “It’s incredible how things work out sometimes.”
Back in October, during a roadside sign dedication honoring Sarah near the site of the fatal crash on W.Va. 2, Brenda spoke about the continued need to strengthen the existing law in terms of prohibiting parking in right-of-ways. When asked what Sarah, a junior honors student at Marshall University, would think about this activism from her parents, at that time, Brenda said, she might’ve felt uncomfortable with the attention but that “she wouldn’t want someone to get hurt over stupidity.”
Brenda then added: “Sarah never wanted attention, but if she knew it could help save a life, she’d say, ‘You go, Mom.’”
At the dedication, 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.”
That day, 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.
That law is now known as Sarah Nott’s Law which goes into effect in July.
(Brenda Nott’s obituary appears inside this edition.)