NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As a Rutherford County father reflects on a grim milestone of what would have been his son’s 16th birthday, he looks to hope in a bill before state lawmakers that could add a new fine for drivers breaking the speed limit.  

On Halloween night in 2020, 13-year-old Nate Isbell was struck and killed by a speeding driver while he was out skateboarding. Since then, Nate’s father, Chuck Isbell, has been working to slow down drivers, especially in neighborhoods.

“All of his friends are getting cars and wanting to get their license and stuff,” said Chuck, whose son would have turned 16 on Thursday, Feb. 23. “I hear their parents kind of complaining about it and I tell them, I’m like, ‘At least you get to have that argument.'”

Senate Bill 0505/House Bill 0410 would give local municipalities the option to add a $200 fine for drivers caught speeding through residential areas. The measure would have to pass by popular vote in local jurisdictions before taking effect. 

Chuck said drivers following lower speed limits can truly make the difference between life and death in a pedestrian crash.  

“If that person had been obeying the speed limit, there was still a good chance for Nate to die at 35 miles an hour, but there’s also a good chance that he could have survived it,” Chuck said.  

According to AAA research, a person is roughly 70 times more likely to die if hit by someone going 30 miles per hour, versus 25 miles per hour. 

Chuck added that neighborhoods often see more foot traffic, including pedestrians and children playing. He said he believes a stiff penalty of $200 might be enough to change drivers’ behaviors.  

“[If] you kill somebody, you can’t take that back. You can’t go, ‘Well I’m sorry, it was an accident,’ because it wasn’t. You knew you were speeding and you knew it was a crime,” Chuck explained. “And so, like I said, putting the fine out there more is one more step in what we need.” 

Clarksville City Councilwoman Deanna McLaughlin tells News 2 stricter penalties for speeding has been a major priority of hers, and she hopes the bill will gain support. She shared the following statement:

“As a City of Clarksville council member the one subject that I receive the most calls and e-mails about is speeding in neighborhoods. Installing speed humps on every residential street is not a feasible option due to the approval required from Fire, EMS, and police who need to use residential streets to respond to calls for service. My suggestion was creating a law that would make the fine for speeding in neighborhoods equal to speeding in school zones. The rationale is that children are pedestrians in both places. If drivers are made aware that they will to pay substantially more for speeding in neighborhoods than maybe they will follow the speed limits in residential areas. I am grateful for the help of Representative Curtis Johnson and his staff for researching, drafting, and sponsoring this Bill in the house and for Senator Powers for sponsoring it in the Senate. If this bill passes at the state legislature than a member of municipal voting body can draft a local ordinance to create a fine of up to $500 before court costs and present it to their voting body for approval. If this becomes law in Clarksville my hope is that we can educate local drivers before this were to go into effect and that the higher fine will be an incentive for people to slow down in residential areas. This all about the safety of our children.”

The bill has been passed onto the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee and the House Transportation Subcommittee. If passed, the measure would take effect July 1.