NASHVILLE — “Shadow’s Law” became official last week, with the signature of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.
The law changes Tennessee’s policy on roadside memorial signs. Inspired by Shadow “Shada” Lowe, the 18-year-old Roane State student who was killed in an accident on U.S. Hwy. 27 in 2011, the law authorizes the Tennessee Department of Transportation to provide permanent memorials of fatal accidents involving impaired drivers.
On Monday, the first such sign was placed near U.S. Hwy. 27’s intersection with Galloway Drive just south of Oneida, where Lowe was one of two drivers killed in an Oct. 9, 2011, head-on collision.
Lowe died when the car she was driving collided with a vehicle driven by 27-year-old Gregory Brian Sexton, who also died in the crash. A Tennessee Highway Patrol report filed at the time indicated that Sexton’s 2008 Ford Fusion crossed the center line and collided with Lowe’s 1999 Mercury Cougar, which was traveling south.
One year ago, Tennessee passed a law allowing memorial signs to be placed at the site of fatal accidents involving impaired drivers as a way to both memorialize the victims and raise awareness of the costs of DUI. The original law, named the Tyler Head Law, was inspired by a Springfield, Tenn., man who died in a crash with an impaired driver in 2002.
But that original law only provided for permanent memorials upon the conviction of the impaired driver. In the Scott County accident, both drivers were killed in the crash. Lowe’s mother, Tonia Lowe, lobbied for an amended law, which came in the form of House Bill 21 that was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this year.
Sponsored by State Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville, and State Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, the Shadow Brooke Lowe Act was bipartisan legislation to “authorize DUI memorial signs for victims of accidents in which the intoxicated driver causing the accident was not convicted due to the driver dying as a result of the accident,” according to a description written by legislative clerks.
The legislation passed both the House and Senate by unanimous votes. While it was signed into law by Haslam on April 24, a signing ceremony was held last week, where the governor signed several noteworthy pieces of legislation that were passed by the General Assembly during the 2017 legislative session.
On Monday, a TDOT crew placed the sign — which is styled after other official highway markings placed by the state and reads “Impaired Driving Costs Innocent Lives - In Memory of Shadow ‘Shada’ Brooke Lowe.”
Under Shadow’s Law, families of other fatal accident victims involving an impaired driver can petition for similar signs at accident sites elsewhere in the state.
Pitts sponsored the original Tyler Head Law in 2016, and filed the amended legislation in 2017 after contact with Tonia Lowe. He applauded his colleagues in Nashville for their support of the legislation.
“When Shada’s mother was notified of its passage, her comment was ‘thank the Lord,’” Pitts said earlier this year.
After TDOT placed the memorial sign on Monday, with several members of Shada Lowe's family looking on, her mother's reaction was one of relief.
"This has been a fight for justice for her," Lowe said. "The whole ordeal has been a battle."
"I was honored to carry this very important legislation and I hope this bill will offer solace to families who experience this trauma, and continue to educate on the perils of impaired driving," Pitts said.