NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A July 2020 car crash that led to the death of a Middle Tennessee businessman could lead to harsher punishments for texting while driving in Volunteer State, which could lead to people losing their license for a repeat violation.
“We are all guilty of doing this, but to have a stiffer penalty against this distracted driving is going to bring so much awareness to the community and hopefully save many lives,” said Candy Lackey.
Lackey is close friends with the family of the late Eddie Conrad. According to Tennessee Highway Patrol, while Conrad was waiting to make a turn, he was hit from behind by a distracted driver and pushed into oncoming traffic. Eddie Conrad’s wife and grandchildren were in the car and survived.
“Mr. Conrad’s last words were, ‘she is not going to stop,'” said Lackey.
Since his passing, Lackey and the Conrad family have been working to bring more attention to the potential consequences of distracted driving. They put up billboards around Lebanon saying, “distracted driving is dangerous and can change your life forever.”
It was that billboard that caught the attention of state Sen. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon).
“When I see somebody who is putting their own time, their resources, and not doing it to hurt anybody just to help people, that’s significant,” Sen. Pody said.
Pody’s bill, named the “Eddie Conrad Act,” increases the number of points being charged to someone’s driving record if they are found driving while using a wireless telecommunications device like a cell phone.
It would particularly raise the violations for people under the age of 18, who would receive seven points for a second offense, which is enough to potentially have their license suspended for six to 12 months.
“If we can save one of these lives, either the driver or someone they would hit, it is well worth moving this forward,” Pody said.
Conrad’s son, Brian, says his father would be overjoyed that they are turning what happened to him into a way to help others.
“He would be overwhelmed by what we are trying to create,” Brian Conrad said. “He would be ecstatic about it.”
Brian Conrad plans to testify in front of the Senate subcommittee to show his support for the bill and wants to stress to lawmakers that no family should have to go through what his family did.
“It’s so easy to do, you see it all the time, it’s such a problem,” he said.
According to the group “Hands Free Tennessee,” more than 20,000 people were involved in a crash with a distracted driver in 2020, the same year Conrad died.