Petitions & Collaborative Efforts Are Making Progress In Ending Preventable Crash Deaths

I am thankful for the progress which has been made in traffic safety and underride protection. And I am asking you all to hang in there with us and keep pushing for more.

Please sign and share these two petitions:

  1. Just launched this petition directed to NHTSA calling on them to mandate side guards on trucks; they have been talking about it since 1969. Technology is available. Let’s get at it! Mandate Side Guards On Large Trucks To End Deadly Side Underride Crashes
  2. Traffic Safety Ombudsman Petition: We propose that the United States establish an independent Office of National Traffic Safety Ombudsman to be an advocate to eliminate preventable crash deaths and serious injuries.

Roads Safer

Reports on Past Petitions:

Collaborative Effort: Media Coverage of the first Truck Underride Roundtable held at IIHS on May 5, 2016

Together, we are indeed making the roads safer — one step at a time. Thank you.

Recent Posts on Important Safety Advocacy Events & Issues

A lot has been happening recently in our safety advocacy efforts. In order to make that information readily available, but not take up too much space on the Home Page, I will list some of the posts as links here:

    1. New on the Market: Angel Wing Side Guard Solution To Prevent Truck Underride Deaths & Injuries Good news for those of us who travel on the roads. . . There will soon be a safety product on the market: a side guard to prevent passenger vehicles — as well as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycle riders —  from riding under the sides of large trucks upon collision. . .
    2. A Very Mary Birthday: What Mary would have done & what I did without her on her birthday How would Mary have celebrated her 17th birthday today? Well, I don’t know for sure. But I know that she would have enjoyed making her own homemade pizza with us tonight. (Or would she have chosen something else for her birthday meal?) . . . Whatever she would have chosen to do on her special day, Mary would have made the most of it because “every day’s a holiday with Mary” and she knew how to live joyfully — when she wasn’t grumpy, that is.  . .
    3. New Care2 Petition to End Preventable Crash Deaths: Appoint a Traffic Safety Ombudsman After one more awful truck crash tragedy last weekend, I decided to launch a new petition on Care2 where we had our previous petitions.This happened on Sunday in Nebraska: Young family killed in I-80 crash was headed to Colorado for missionary trainingOh, and here is another deadly truck underride crash which just happened yesterday in Michigan! Car lodged under semi trailer in crash; 1 dead
    4. Tesla crash fatality could have been stopped by side guards. Tell NHTSA to require them on trucks.The U.S. has been talking about the tragedies of side underride and the possibility of using side guards on trucks since 1969. The recent Tesla S underride crash fatality could quite likely have been prevented if there had been a side guard on the tractor-trailer it collided with. So why is NHTSA still not requiring side guards on trucks? Tell NHTSA to require them; make a Public Comment on the Federal Register here. (Click on the Comment Now button ; then select Public Comment Category.) See a recent crash test of an innovative side guard:
    5. Knights of the Underride Roundtable: Finding Some Common Ground to Protect Travelers! On June 24, 12 people from diverse backgrounds met around a table at the IIHS offices in Arlington, Virginia, to continue the good work begun at the Underride Roundtable on May 5, 2016. This time, we rolled up our sleeves and hammered out a written recommendation for better rear underride guard requirements for tractor-trailers. To save lives.
    6. Important Follow-up to the Underride Roundtable, June 24 at IIHS: The Work Continues To read posts which I wrote as a follow-up to the Underride Roundtable, go here:  Underride Roundtable Follow-up Posts
    7. Media Coverage of the first Truck Underride Roundtable held at IIHS on May 5, 2016 You will find multiple links below reporting on the Underride Roundtable, which took place on May 5, 2016 at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville Center, co-hosted by them with the Truck Safety Coalition, and our family (AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety). . .
    8. With the Underride Roundtable coming up soon, I put together a post with links to just about everything I have ever found out about underride. I hope that someone makes good use of the information provided: Underride Roundtable To Consider Underride Research From Around the Globe.Also included is an Dragon Underride Protector Wish List form which I hope people will fill out and send to me.First photo is of a German researcher. I included an article about his work, with a link to help you translate it from German to English. Just tryin’ to be helpful!
    9. An impressive group headed for the Truck Underride Roundtable at IIHS May 5. I heard from Andy Young today. He will be the Moderator for the Panel Discussion at the Underride Roundtable next week. He is eagerly anticipating that event after just returning from attending  “The Commercial Vehicle” show in Birmingham England. He said that he has lots to share from that experience. I’m looking forward to hearing all about it.I am also happy to be able to say that at the Underride Roundtable on May 5, 2016, over 65 representatives from the trucking industry, government, safety advocates, engineers, crash reconstructionists, attorneys, and media will be on hand at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Vehicle Research Center to “sit down at the table together” and discuss and demonstrate truck underride crashes.
    10. May Day: Remembering Our Butterfly Girls–Full of Life, Frozen in Time Last year, I saw this statue of two young girls excited about a butterfly in a jar. It reminded me so much of AnnaLeah and Mary. We decided to get it this year to help us as we remember the 3rd anniversary of our truck crash, on May 4, 2013, which took Mary and AnnaLeah from us.
    11. “Trucks Are Getting More Dangerous And Drivers Are Falling Asleep At The Wheel. Thank Congress.” If you are at all concerned about the possibility of you, or someone you know, being in a truck crash, READ this Huffington Post (April 16, 2016) article: Trucks Are Getting More Dangerous And Drivers Are Falling Asleep At The Wheel. Thank Congress. . . April 22, 2016 UPDATE:
    12. What will it take to make a significant reduction in the number of people who die on our roads?  Today, I watched some of  the live streaming of NHTSA’s conference, Driving Behavioral Change in Traffic Safety. As I listened to the various speakers and panel discussions, many thoughts and questions went through my mind. . .
    13. Tell Obama you are standing with us in this: “Family Continues Fight for Trucking Safety” Please read the news report by our local reporter, Brie Handgraaf, about our recent delivery of 20,000+ Vision Zero Petitions to Washington: Family continues fight for trucking safety.Then, contact President Obama online and ask him to read the Vision Zero Petition Book, which was delivered to him at the White House yesterday. . .
    14. Delivery of a Vision Zero Petition to Washington; What I have learned in our battle for safer roads  I  am having a difficult time getting this post started. I shared about it briefly here and Russell Mokhiber graciously shared our story as well. Now I want to give a more in-depth report of our trip to Washington, DC, on March 3 and 4 to deliver over 20,000 Vision Zero Petitions. I want to be able to report that I am hopeful about the impact of our Vision Zero Petition. But I am mostly frustrated and angry. . .
    15. What is justice as it relates to traffic safety? Here is a timely article by Ralph Nader on the topic of Justice. . . 
    16. Witnessed safety defect in action at underride crash tests; this is what snuffed out my daughters’ lives. We have been following the progress of Aaron Kiefer’s development of an innovative side/rear underride guard, which he has designed on his own time when not working as a crash reconstructionist or spending time with his family. So we eagerly welcomed his invitation to help out in his MacGyver-style crash test this past Saturday. (By the way, I am a big fan of MacGyver–watched every episode on DVD with Mary & AnnaLeah.)Aaron wanted to take this opportunity to test his design and find out what changes might be needed to make it a marketable and affordable option for trailer owners to install as a retrofit safety improvement. We joined a crew of his family, friends, and fellow crash reconstructionists at a junkyard in the Triangle area. . .
    17. A second round of side guard crash tests: Just got home from the latest side guard crash test. Watch it here!
    18. Are you aware that Death by Motor Vehicle is one of the leading causes of death?32,719 people died in U.S. traffic crashes in 2013.  Two of those people were my daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13). That number decreased to 32,675 deaths in 2014–down by 44, but still far too many deaths in my book. In fact, early estimates show 2015 trending higher.And how many of those deaths were due to truck underride and could have been prevented by a stronger, more effective underride protection system? Underride deaths are preventable and unnecessary and now is the time to take extreme action to reduce these deaths–no matter who caused the crash!I survived a horrific truck crash in which our car was pushed by a truck into the rear of another truck. Backwards. My daughters in the back seat were not so fortunate; they went under the truck and the truck broke their innocent bodies. . .
    19. Do it, President Obama, for We the People of this United States of America! #VisionZero  I firmly believe that, in order to move as a nation Toward a Vision of Zero Crash Deaths, it will take take a commitment to a National Vision Zero Goal and a coordinated endeavor of government, private industry, workers of every skill imaginable, and informed citizens. Anything short of this will be disjointed and less effective, which translates into — not simply unmet project goals but — people dying. It is not an impossible dream but it will require sacrifice and will be well worth the effort. . .


“Phone Makers Could Cut Off Drivers. So Why Don’t They?” Well?

Phone Makers Could Cut Off Drivers. So Why Don’t They?, NYTimes,  Matt Richtel, September 24, 2016

This article asks some of the same questions which I have asked before. Namely, don’t phone manufacturers bear some responsibility to make them harder to use when driving?

Don’t Be Caught Unaware: Find out what YOU can do to become a safer driver

Irreversible tragedies

What will it take to make a significant reduction in the number of people who die on our roads?

A Story of Four Sisters & A Wedding Dress; Bittersweet Memories Transformed Into a Gift of Comfort

A Story of Four Sisters & A Wedding Dress


Rebekah was so excited when John asked her to marry him. Shortly after she became engaged, Rebekah came home from college for a Christmas visit. Her youngest sister, Mary, baked a special multi-layered engagement cake to surprise Rebekah when she arrived from the airport.

While Rebekah was home, we talked about plans for her wedding on May 11, 2013, and practiced making cake pops for their reception. Rebekah asked me to sew her wedding dress, so we also went shopping with her sister, Susanna, to pick out material.

Over the coming months, in the midst of finishing her master’s degree, Rebekah made plans for her wedding in Texas. And I sewed her wedding dress at home in North Carolina. Mary (13) had fun serving as the model for her sister’s dress.

I made a small dress out of the leftover material in case Rebekah and John ever had a little girl who might like to play dress-up in a replica of her mother’s wedding dress. And Rebekah’s other sister, AnnaLeah (17), sewed another little bridal dress for their niece, Vanessa, to give her as a birthday present during our trip back to Texas for four college graduations, a wedding, and two birthdays (including AnnaLeah’s 18th birthday on May 15 and Vanessa’s 4th birthday on May 28). Although AnnaLeah was very creative and had sewn many things by hand, this was her first sewing project using a sewing machine, and I was so proud of her.

On May 4, 2013, AnnaLeah, Mary, their brother Caleb, and I started out on a road trip from our home in North Carolina to head for the celebrations in Arlington, Texas. While in Georgia, we came upon slowed traffic for a crash up ahead and a truck hit us in such a way that we were spun around and sent backward into the rear of another truck. The back of the car went under the truck when the underride guard failed to withstand the collision.

AnnaLeah and Mary were in the back seat and died as a result – AnnaLeah at the scene of the crash and Mary a few days later. They never got to see their sister get married. In fact, the family was in much confusion and Rebekah was faced with what to do – deciding that it would honor her sisters to continue with the wedding which she knew her sisters had been looking forward to.

The wedding dress had been damaged in the crash and Rebekah’s church stepped up to get her a new dress to wear. In fact, our family experienced the love and support of being surrounded and supported by many people from around the country. And so the wedding went forward with joy in the midst of sorrow.

In the aftermath, the family has had a long journey of recovering from our loss. Each of us have handled it in our own way. The wedding dress which I had lovingly sewn for my daughter’s special day never served its intended purpose. I had it cleaned and carefully stored. But, for Rebekah, it naturally does not bring to mind cherished memories.

So, when my daughter-in-law suggested that we could donate it to Allison’s Angel Gowns to be re-purposed into bereavement gowns for babies who never go home from the hospital, I cried but immediately felt at peace. At last, the dress would have a purpose in bringing comfort to others who had joined us in our pain of saying good-bye to precious ones gone too soon.

Now, I could let it go. . .

Photo Album: Wedding Preparations; or, Get Me to the Church on Time!

Note: I wrote this yesterday after finding out that Allison’s Angel Gowns would accept Rebekah’s first wedding dress. This is what my daughter-in-law found out for me:

So, I found a few different places that turn wedding gowns into angel gowns for babies who don’t make it out of the hospital. All of the ones that I saw have had a big influx of dresses and weren’t accepting dresses. I emailed them and explained why the dress means so much and the situation that makes getting rid of it important. I got a response back from Allison’s Angel Gowns. Not only would they love to take the dress and turn it into beautiful baby gowns to bless other families, but they would like us to write a letter telling the story so that it can stay with the dress as the dress is passed on to the seamstresses.

After reading what I wrote, I realized that my verb tenses weren’t consistent. But I decided to leave it that way because that is how it is for me — the past, present, and future are all tangled together in my head and heart.

And when I asked Rebekah if it was okay for me to share this story, she said, “You can share. Glad it will serve a purpose.”


Speed Limiters: U.S. Revs Up Interest in Slowing Heavy Trucks & Buses (FairWarning)

Fair Warning’s Paul Feldman has written an article on the recently proposed federal regulation to require big rigs to utilize speed limiters: Speed Limiters for Big Rigs After Moving at a Crawl, U.S. Revs Up Interest in Slowing Heavy Trucks and Buses

Our crash involved a trucker going too fast for the traffic conditions but not necessarily over the speed limit. In fact, there were many factors involved in our tragic outcome. It makes me wonder what all leads to speeding trucks, as well as speeding trucks getting involved in deadly crashes. What is the root of the problem here and what is the best way to address it?

On the one hand, on the other hand: Speed Limiters: The Controversy of Speed Differentials Between Trucks & Cars

I am still hoping to organize a Tired Trucker Roundtable for some down to earth discussion so we can all get on the same page.

Tired Trucker Roundtable

Barack Obama Op-Ed: “Self-driving, yes, but also safe” Would he be willing to discuss this with me?

President Obama wrote an Op-Ed about the role of government in overseeing the development of self-driving cars. I find one of his comments very interesting:

There are always those who argue that government should stay out of free enterprise entirely, but I think most Americans would agree we still need rules to keep our air and water clean, and our food and medicine safe. That’s the general principle here. What’s more, the quickest way to slam the brakes on innovation is for the public to lose confidence in the safety of new technologies.

Both government and industry have a responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen. And make no mistake: If a self-driving car isn’t safe, we have the authority to pull it off the road. We won’t hesitate to protect the American public’s safety.

See more here

Well then, President Obama, I would like to discuss with you the unsafe trucks driving on the road which, at any moment, could kill an unsuspecting member of the American public  — as one did my two daughters, Mary and AnnaLeah — due to inadequate underride protection.  Are you ready to exercise that authority and take decisive action?

  1. Set a National Vision Zero Goal.
  2. Establish a White House Vision Zero Task Force.
  3. Sign a Vision Zero Executive Order to authorize the Department of Transportation to adopt a Vision Zero Rulemaking Policy.
  4. And then appoint a National Traffic Safety Ombudsman to advocate for the victims of vehicle violence, to protect the American public, and to mobilize citizens to act on their own behalf through a nationwide network of Vision Zero/Traffic Safety Community Action Groups.

Let’s have a serious talk about this. I’ll be in DC next week. Give me a call.

Unsafe TrucksViolence

The Glacial Pace of Truck Underride Improvements (along with countless other safety issues)

Recent (and past) events were spurring me to write this post this morning based on frustration with the way that progress is too often blocked and unnecessarily delayed on safety efforts when the people and organizations who could do something to prevent deaths tragically wait for somebody else to act before taking responsibility to move forward themselves.

The result is a Catch 22, chicken & egg dilemma which moves as slow as crystallized honey with the result that countless people die when something could have been done to make sure that they did not meet an untimely end due to Death by Motor Vehicle.


So I appreciated a Tweet by the IIHS which I noticed this morning before I was able to start writing this post:

Well said, IIHS! I couldn’t have said it better myself!

See the glacial pace of underride prevention progress here: timeline-banner-for-underride-roundtable-meeting

I still say that a National Traffic Safety Ombudsman could be instrumental in changing this sorry state of affairs!

Why rely on driver reaction to avoid truck side underride when a side guard could prevent tragedy?

I just read a very detailed explanation for why a driver might not react in time to avoid riding under the side of a semi-trailer — one without a side guard I might add. Well, that is all very interesting and we might learn something useful from it.

But, why on earth would we rely on driver behavior (especially in such an unexpected scenario) when the installation of a side guard could so easily save the driver’s life?!

Save Lives

Of course, taking a comprehensive approach to safety makes the most sense –one which makes other factors important as well, including:

  • Visibility and conspicuity.
  • Adequate parking for trucks.
  • Making it illegal for trucks to make U-turns.

Either or

Teaching the World How We Grieve: Acknowledging our grief anniversaries.

Yesterday, I had a conversation on a facebook group about grieving:  Teaching the World How We Grieve: Acknowledging our grief anniversaries.

One of the things which I had mentioned was this:

I still have many moments when I can’t believe they are really gone. And I cling to anything of theirs. In case you hadn’t noticed, writing about it and them helps me. Sewing quilts with their clothes has been catharthtic.

Just yesterday, I was in a whirl because I had to let go of a car which had been given to us after the crash to replace ours. It recently had an electrical fire and yesterday we found out that the insurance company was totaling it. It is a negative reminder of the crash/loss but it is also a connection to them that will now be gone forever. And a reminder of the many ways in which people reached out to us. I don’t even know how to describe the mess of feelings that produced. LETTING GO. . .

I had one of those clinging moments again today when my son took out some boxes from the shed and asked me if I wanted him to break them down to put in recycling. I said, “No!” — not because the boxes were in great shape but because they were ones which Mary had labeled when we were moving from Texas.

When the crash happened, we were living in a rental house, and exactly two months (the Fourth of July) after the crash, we moved into our present house. That’s when I found those boxes. There were many boxes labeled by her, but these were boxes of her college sister’s clothes left at home, and Mary was being silly and spelling her sister’s name every way she could think of.

That’s Mary for you.

little-red-hen-016 little-red-hen-023 little-red-hen-022 little-red-hen-021 little-red-hen-019 little-red-hen-018


When we know a person, we often know their handwriting. It is a part of them. And I couldn’t bear to throw away that part of her. She will never again write anything — even on a moving box.


Mary with Oscar The Catsusanna mary annaleah in costumeNever forgotten

I wonder if she would think that I am being silly.

Nader 50 years later: Federal Regulation Saves Millions of Lives, But. . .

Nader wrote a blogpost about the recent 50th anniversary of the signing of the Highway Safety Act on 9/9/1966.

Fifty years ago this month (on September 9, 1966), President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety laws that launched a great life-saving program for the American People.

I was there that day at the White House at the invitation of President Johnson who gave me one of the signing pens. In 1966, traffic fatalities reached 50,894 or 5.50 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. By 2014, the loss of life was 32,675 or 1.07 fatalities per hundred million vehicle miles traveled. A huge reduction!

This was an astounding success for a federal safety program that included mandatory vehicle-safety standards (seat belts, airbags, better brakes, tires and handling among other advances) and upgrading driver and highway-safety standards. . .

Despite, many good programs and safety standards, there is still a ways to go, according to Nader:

If the auto company bosses had liberated their own engineers and scientists and cooperated with the federal regulators, who early on were physicians and engineers, even more casualties would have been prevented.

Today, the challenges remain in the upgrading of the operational and safety aspects of motor vehicles, especially large trucks, improvements in highway infrastructure and handling drivers distracted by cell phones or under the influence. Much is being written of futuristic self-driving, autonomous vehicles. Don’t be taken in with the hype, or the arrogant reliance on algorithms. It will be many years, if ever, until the entire vehicle fleet is converted into unhackable, driverless machines.

Meanwhile, modest semi-autonomous braking systems, with drivers still at the steering wheel, are here and will improve. There will be other systems inviting the dependency of drivers which will raise questions of ultimate control of a fast-moving vehicle. . .

In conclusion, Nader has this to say:

Democracy and its result – a more just society – is not a spectator sport. People have to organize to challenge the forces of injustice.

America, are we ready to actively participate in advocating for our own safety?

Life & Death


“Breaking Through Power: Help Us Make Activism Great Again” Ralph Nader Conference in DC

I received an invitation in an email this morning:

If you have had enough of:

  • Vehicle Violence
  • Injustice
  • Corporate Control of Government and Media
  • Sickness Care for Profit
  • Revolving Door Governance
  • Inequality
  • Dominance of Corporate Lobbyists
  • Gun Violence
  • Crime in the Suites
  • Inadequate Care of Veterans
  • Homelessness
  • Inferior Infrastructure
  • For Profit Education
  • Military Industrial Priorities
  • Duopoly Politics
  • Etc., etc.

Attend this upcoming Conference by Ralph Nader on “Breaking Through Power” to learn how we the people can do better.

This conference aims to mobilize citizens to bring about change.

I was glad to see Vehicle Violence listed — an issue which sorely needs addressing. Actually, I had already planned on going to this conference in DC, as I have been invited to sit on a panel of tort victims — when tort law is being discussed on the final day of the conference, September 29.

Good thing. Someone needs to look out for vulnerable victims of vehicle violence
Gertie reaching for Mary ...Susanna's film

“Trucking Regulations Don’t Address Biggest Risk – Unsafe Behavior” by a husband/wife trucker team

You will want to read this in-depth article on truck safety full of practical knowledge and insight — written by a trucker husband/wife team.

Opinion: Trucking Regulations Don’t Address Biggest Risk – Unsafe Behavior,, by Jeff & Linda Halling, September 8, 2016

Written by Jeff and Linda Halling, a husband-and-wife driving team based in Missouri. This is one in a series of periodic guest columns by industry thought leaders.

While the federal government is adding new trucking industry regulations — including speed limiters for big rigs and electronic logging devices for drivers — these moves don’t really address the root causes of truck crashes.

If we really want to improve safety for truckers and the motoring public, we need to focus on the base reasons for unsafe behavior. We believe better training is key — teaching drivers good work habits. That will reduce the frequency of truck crashes. . .

Read more here: Trucking Regulations Don’t Address Biggest Risk – Unsafe Behavior