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Bill punishing drivers who don't secure ladders to their vehicle passes TN Legislature

House Rep. Lowell Russell (R-Vonore) introduced the legislation in honor of a fallen Loudon County Sheriff's Deputy.

LOUDON COUNTY, Tenn. — The Tennessee Senate and House of Representatives passed the Sgt. Chris Jenkins bill unanimously on Monday. The bill would make it a crime for someone to drive without securing a ladder to their vehicle.

Governor Bill Lee signed the bill into law on Thursday. The Loudon County Sheriff's Office released a statement about the law, speaking about Sgt. Chris Jenkins — the bill's namesake. He died after he was hit by a truck while picking a ladder up off the road. 

That statement is below.

"This bill moves us another step forward in the painful but necessary process of healing from the loss of Sergeant Chris Jenkins. As the Jenkins family continues along the path of healing, so too, do the men and women of the Loudon County Sheriff's Office.

I am extremely thankful for the efforts by so many to get this bill passed. Words cannot express my gratitude and appreciation to the Tennessee Highway Patrol in their advocacy to help with this bill.

As we move forward, I hope that this law will help bring awareness across Tennessee. Sergeant Jenkins will continue to save lives with this law in effect."

"It was a preventable accident. A simple securing of that ladder," said Sen. Adam Lowe, the Senate sponsor of the bill.

If the ladder falls off the vehicle and damages some property, the bill would make that a Class C Misdemeanor. If the ladder falls off the vehicle and injures a person, it would be a Class A misdemeanor under the bill. 

The Tennessee House already passed the bill. Representative Lowell Russell (R-Vonore) introduced the bill in honor of Sgt. Jenkins. 

Sgt. Jenkins was killed in the line of duty on February 3, 2022. Sonny Beason pleaded no contest to 3 charges of reckless endangerment, for not securing a ladder to his van. 

The ladder fell off of the van on I-75 North, in Loudon County. Sgt. Chris Jenkins set up a rolling roadblock to try to pick the ladder up off I-75. Prosecutors say Christopher Savannah, a truck driver who they said had used marijuana at the time, hit and killed Sgt. Jenkins. 

"Sgt. Chris Jenkins will continue saving lives through this law," said Rep. Russell. 

THP Trooper Dennis Smith helped write the bill. He said troopers constantly have to pick items up off roads. 

"It's very nerve-wracking, it's very dangerous, and we do it almost on a daily basis," Trooper Smith said. "Everything from tree limbs to rocks, to generators." 

A judge sentenced Beason to 11 months and 29 days in jail for not securing his ladder. 

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