State Rep. Doug Overbey on Feb. 12 introduced legislation to eliminate the Class M motorcycle license in honor of a 14-year-old Maryville teen killed while riding a motorcycle to church in April of 2007.
Matthew Wright died April 25 while riding his motorcycle to Maryville Church of Christ. One of his friends, Josh Allen, emailed Overbey recently to ask him what could be done to prevent another such accident. State law allows a limited motorcycle license for those 14 to 16. They can only drive during daylight hours, no more than seven miles from home and only on a motorcycle with a 125 cubic centimeter engine or less, the lawmaker said.
Allen, a Maryville High School graduate, stayed in contact with Overbey regarding possible legislation.
“Personally I felt it was irresponsible that 14-year-olds were able to have a motorcycle and drive on the road. I felt that our least experienced age group should not have opportunity to drive vehicles that require the most experience on road. I felt if changes had been made in Tennessee law, Matthew still might be here today,” he said.
Allen said he understood other’s viewpoints, and he knew after contacting Overbey that critics of the bill might give negative feedback.
“A lot of kids live in single parent households and this was their only way of transportation,” Allen said. “If I had to speak to parents I would say, your child’s life is more important than getting from point A to B. I understand situations but, in the long run, your child’s life is more important than getting anywhere.”
Overbey said that when Allen first wrote to him, Overbey started researching motorcycle license and the limitations for age.
“I wrote Josh back and told him I would consider filing appropriate legislation if he would provide me his input as to what type legislation should be introduced,” Overbey said.
Allen could have suggested modifying the law slightly but he didn’t. “Josh wrote me back a two- page email and said he thought nothing less than to see M-limited licenses eliminated would be appropriate,” Overbey said. “I was so impressed with his force of reason and logic I agreed to file and sponsor the bill.”
Allen came to the Public Safety and Rural Roads Sub committee of the Transportation Committee to speak in favor of the legislation. His friends Will Jolly and Ryan Singleton accompanied him and watched as he addressed the lawmakers.
“Josh was very good in presenting this and giving his testimony to the subcommittee, and, in fact, one of the members of the subcommittee, Rep. Jimmy Matlock, met us in the hallway and was very complimentary with the way Josh stepped up to the podium and delivered his testimony. Rep. Matlock said it was better than someone who had done it 50 times before.”
Overbey said if the bill is passed and signed into law, then after July1 no one would be able to get a class M limited license. Fourteen or 15 year olds who already have a license could continue to have it, but no new ones would be issued after July 1.