KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Governor Bill Lee signed the “Sergeant Chris Jenkins Law,” named in honor of the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office Deputy who was hit and killed in February 2022 when he was responding to a report of a ladder in the roadway.
The law makes it an offense for someone to operate a vehicle on a public roadway and carry an item in an open bed or trailer without it being adequately secured, according to the Tennessee General Assembly website.
Specifically, the law makes it a Class C Misdemeanor to transport an item weighing more than 2.2 pounds (one kilogram) in an open bed vehicle or trailer without it being secured by a web-derived strap or a ladder without two lateral straps at both ends of the ladder. The law also states that items weighing less than 2.2 pounds being transported must be contained with a fiber netting or web-derived strap to keep it in the open bed or trailer.
In February 2022, Jenkins was hit by a tractor-trailer on I-75 north as he exited his patrol vehicle while answering a call for a ladder in the roadway according to an arrest report. According to the report, the driver of the tractor-trailer was “clinically under the influence of marijuana” when the crash happened.
According to a previous report, Jenkins used his cruiser as a rolling roadblock while clearing the roadway, but the truck driver failed to slow down and struck two vehicles, Jenkins’ patrol cruiser and Jenkins.
While the tractor-trailer driver faced charges including vehicular homicide by intoxication, the truck driver who failed to secure the ladder he was transporting that Jenkins was attempting to remove was also charged. The man plead guilty to three counts of reckless endangerment and a one count of driving on a suspended license in September 2022.
The bill was introduced in the State Senate on January 25, 2023, and it passed unanimously five days later. The bill also passed the House unanimously on March 13. Lee signed the bill into law on March 23. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Lowell Russell in the house and Senators Adam Lowe, Becky Duncan Massey and Randy McNally in the senate.