Updated July 6, 2023 - 6:15 pm
Jason Patchett sat silently at a table bearing a picture of his late son, Rex, as Gov. Joe Lombardo penned his ceremonial signing of the law named in honor of the 13-year-old victim of reckless driving.
On Wednesday, before the signing at Henderson City Hall, Patchett spoke about the importance of Rex’s Law, officially known as Senate Bill 322, and what it means to him and his family, who were also in in attendance.
“Rex was all about the other people in his life,” he said. “This bill is about others. It’s not about Rex, it’s about other victims of reckless driving.”
Rex’s Law was officially signed into law by Lombardo on June 13.
It increases the possible sentences for people found guilty of reckless driving resulting in substantial bodily harm or death.
Offenders going over 50 mph over the speed limit or driving in a school or pedestrian safety zone when their reckless driving caused substantial bodily harm or death will now face six to 10 years in prison, with a possible fine of $2,000 to $5,000.
The previous sentencing guidelines did not change for reckless drivers speeding less than 50 mph over the speed limit. Those sentencing guidelines call for one to six years in prison with the same fines.
‘Not a partisan issue’
Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Henderson, introduced Rex’s Law as a bill during this year’s legislative session, after working with Assemblyman Toby Yurek, R-Henderson, and Patchett.
Patchett had reached out earlier this year to Stone and Yurek after the driver who killed Rex got the old maximum sentence for reckless driving.
“This is not a partisan issue. This is a public safety, human issue that we need to address so that other families don’t have to suffer this,” Stone said.
Stone said the success of Senate Bill 322 would stick with him for the rest of his life, long after his career ends. Yurek said the bill is among the most significant bills that he worked on during the legislative session, and it was definitely the one closest to him personally.
“Honestly it was this bill, out of everything that I worked on this session, that grabbed my heart, and it kind of meant the most,” Yurek said. “So to see it come to fruition here today like this … to see everybody here to see it culminate like this is so encouraging.”
‘A great first step’
While public officials in attendance celebrated the bill being signed into law, some felt that it’s not enough by itself to address the issue of reckless driving.
Lombardo, Stone and Yurek said Rex’s Law marks a good start toward fixing the problem of reckless driving in the state, but they all said more is needed to effectively make Nevada’s roadways safer.
“In my opinion, it’s a great first step,” Lombardo said about Rex’s Law. “And we’ll see how the data and science proves whether it is enough or not. But if you have to ask me today, I’d say it’s not enough.”
He and Stone said more action needs to be taken to prevent the danger from reckless driving and driving under the influence. Stone suggested a education campaign encouraging people to drive more responsibly to help reduce dangerous driving.
Stone and Yurek said they would support amending Rex’s Law to include harsher penalties if the law in its current state is not an effective enough deterrent against reckless driving.
‘Knows how to get stuff done’
Officials who spoke at the signing praised Patchett for his efforts to push the new legislation.
Lombardo cited Patchett’s tenacity in working to get the bill passed, saying he “knows how to get stuff done.”
Stone and Yurek said the law would not exist if not for Patchett’s efforts.
For his part, Patchett credited the community for not only pushing for passage of Rex’s Law, but also helping him and his family deal with their loss.
“It’s the support of the community that allows me and my family to take one step forward each day and manage that grief process,” Patchett said.
Contact Mark Credico at email@example.com. Follow him on Instagram @writermark2.