Monthly Archives: July 2014

Truck Safety Needs Bipartisan Support: Protecting its citizens is one of the basic purposes of government

I would have to say that I prefer smaller government. But I do think that protecting its citizens is one of the basic purposes of government. “Truck safety” is, for the most part, about protecting travelers on the road. It is a public health problem and should get bipartisan support.

You know, I lost my youngest two daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13), due to a truck crash on May 4, 2013. That’s what made me become a passionate advocate for safer roads. That is why I became convinced that this problem needs to be addressed in a big way. That’s why I think that a federal task force might be what is needed to tackle this issue:

Our petition site is still open…’though we are doing nothing to promote it, people are still finding it and signing it in support of “truck safety.” 11,415 and counting (plus 150 mailed-in signatures):

When the going gets rough and I feel like forgetting about it all, this is what I remember:

Our Crash Was Not An Accident


Our crash was not an accident.

There were many factors which contributed to our crash and to the fact that there were fatalities, including:

  1. There was a fatal crash two miles ahead of us two hours before our crash occurred. This had caused the traffic to back up.
  2. There had been nothing done, that I am aware of, to divert traffic or alert travelers that they would be coming up on this situation.
  3. Truck drivers have very long work weeks–partially a scheduling issue.
  4. Truck drivers are under a lot of pressure to drive a lot of hours and miles due to their compensation system.
  5. Consumers want their products delivered yesterday.
  6. Enforcement of truck driving regulations, especially of Hours Of Service (HOS), as well as truck maintenance, is an issue–paper log books have not been considered reliable and, too often, violations are not identified until it is too late.
  7. Opposition, to needed changes in regulations, by the trucking industry leads to delays in, or prevention of, changes which could prevent crashes and/or save lives.
  8. Training for, and issuing of, CDLs is not always what it should be.
  9. Federal regulations for underride guards—partially due to misinformed opposition and lack of priority assigned to this needed change—have been inadequate for far too long.
  10. Despite evidence from crash test research and real-world crash analysis, trailer manufacturers continued to produce inadequate underride guards.
  11. The unsafe driving habits/decisions of the truck driver who hit us may well have determined the outcome of our road trip for AnnaLeah and Mary.
  12. Drowsy driving may have been a factor. DWF = Driving While Fatigued can impair driving as much or more than DUI. Yet, it does not receive the same consequence.
  13. Current laws, for the most part, do not include DWF in the category of a “reckless” action. Vehicular homicide (which is a misdemeanor) would only become 1st degree vehicular homicide (which is a felony) in Georgia, if the driver were also charged with one of the following:
  • DUI.
  • Reckless driving.
  • Hit and run.
  • Passing a school bus.
  • Fleeing or eluding.
  • (Not DWF).
  1. I’ve probably forgotten something or other.  .  .
  2. Oh, yes, I got out of bed that morning, climbed into the car, and got on the road. I stopped for lunch and left the restaurant five minutes too soon (or too late).  Mary and AnnaLeah had come with me.

And who is taking responsibility for this crash (and thousands more like it every year)? How will this ever be addressed adequately to end this senseless slaughter of innocent victims in potentially preventable crashes?

Please wake up, America! After all, it could be you or someone you love that it happens to next. . . Let’s mandate a federal task force to address this widespread, complicated problem once and for all.



Making Progress on Improving Underride Guards: Just in Time for Someone Else

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This last year, Jerry wrote to numerous trailer manufacturing companies asking them to voluntarily step up their underride guard standards. We got some positive response and stirred up interest in companies to which he also wrote who purchase trailers–enlightening them as well. One of the manufacturers, Great Dane, invited us to tour their Research & Design Center on June 25.

Afterwards, I posted this: with this video:  to summarize what I saw as the frustrating lack of progress on improving underride guards and the seeming lack of communication among the various responsible parties with the authority to do something about it.

Of course, we weren’t the only ones frustrated with the inaction on what seems to be a drastically-needed change. Earlier this year, when we took the petitions to DC in May, we had met with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). At that time, they put it like this: It is safer to run into a brick wall than into the back of a truck. Yet, seemingly, nothing was being done about it.

Over the course of time, in communications with IIHS, it had finally become clear to me just why that statement is true and why it didn’t seem to be understood by some in the trucking industry. I had read last fall, in a newscast which quoted Jeff Sims from the TTMA, that some thought that “too rigid” guards might cause more of a problem. ( ) That didn’t make a lot of sense to me, especially considering our accident in which Caleb and I survived and AnnaLeah and Mary did not due to underride.

It turns out that, when the current federal standards were going through the lengthy process of being developed, there was some discussion that there might be a chance that the guards could be “too rigid”–so that strength had to be balanced with energy absorption. But, since then, technology has been developed to create “crush zones” in cars–effectively protecting the occupants in a crash, but not so effectively if  underride occurs because then the crash technology is not allowed to do its thing.

What I found interesting, this morning, was that when I researched the history of airbags (part of that crash technology: ), I discovered that they were first required to be installed starting in 1998the very year that the current federal underride guard standards were required to be implemented (see the history of federal rulemaking on underride guards: ). In effect, those underride guard standards were obsolete/ineffective/out-of-date as soon as they were implemented–only apparently no one was even aware of that unfortunate situation.

Happily, NHTSA has now acknowledged that they agree with us that the rear guards need to be improved, and, on top of that, IIHS told us that 5 out of the 7 companies which failed their 2013 narrow overlap test are in various stages of redesigning their guard. I sure hope that, even now, engineers across the world are wracking their brains and communicating with one another to come up with the best possible protection for us all. Could be we are getting somewhere with this problem…

Too late for AnnaLeah and Mary, but maybe just in time for someone else.

gertie 2946

The Rulemaking Process: A Series of Hurdles to Achieve the Goal of Stronger Underride Guards

underride guards trip to RDU 007
We have just gone over a hurdle–a very important hurdle which has set the ball rolling in the pursuit of improved standards for more effective, life-saving underride guards.

But I am reminded of what the track & field event called The Hurdles is really like. Webster’s defines hurdle like this:

” :one of a series of barriers to be jumped over in a race

the hurdles : a race in which runners must jump over hurdles

: something that makes an achievement difficult.”

I ran the hurdles when I was in high school. I have a scar on my knee from the cinder track to prove it (now lost amid the scars from the truck crash). What we have to remember is that going over one hurdle is not enough. Once you have successfully gone over one, you have to keep in rhythm and go after the next, and the next, and…always keeping focused on staying the course until the end.

This is what the Federal Register posting says at the end: “The agency notes that its granting of the petition submitted by Ms. Karth and the Truck Safety Coalition does not prejudge the outcome of the rulemaking or necessarily mean that a final rule will be issued. The determination of whether to issue a rule will be made after study of the requested action and the various alternatives in the course of the rulemaking proceeding, in accordance with statutory criteria.”

Here are some links on The Rulemaking Process:

So, hang in there with us. We’ve got a few more hurdles to sail over. Don’t look at the waves…

The thing is…we know the goal is worthy.

Trailer Manufacturers…in some stage of redesigning their guards

Underride guards Great Dane trip 012

On top of Wednesday’s good news. . .we heard earlier this week that — according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — 5 out of the 7 trailer manufacturing companies which did not pass the IIHS narrow overlap crash test in 2013 (i.e., the rear underride guard did not hold up when a car crashed into it at the outer edge of the horizontal bar) are in some stage of “redesigning their guards to improve their crash performance.”

IIHS would “like to be able to conduct new tests demonstrating the improvements,” and are “hopeful that this approach can result in meaningful changes even before an upgraded standard from NHTSA, which could still take years to implement.”

NHTSA Has Initiated a Rulemaking Process to Evaluate Options for Improving Underride Guards

AnnaLeah, Mary at Muskegon

At 1:01 p.m. today, Jerry and I received an email from David Friedman, Acting Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as a follow up to our petition for improved underride guards.

David Friedman underride email

Here is ” the “unpublished” version that has been provided for public inspection at”

Mary would have said, “Awesome!” And AnnaLeah would have found a suitable YouTube video to show her approval.

Picture 275

We are forever grateful to everyone who had any part in this victory.  May there be many more in the days ahead.

Jerry & Marianne

Dangers of Drowsy Driving

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Drowsy driving can be a problem for all of us. It is not just that you could fall asleep while driving but that your ability to react in emergency situations is impaired. It can happen to you when you least expect it. Not only that but you can be the victim of someone else’s drowsy driving any time you get into your car.

Drowsy truck drivers are especially hazardous because their job puts them on the road (in a monstrous piece of metal) for most of their working hours.

If I could do it, I would re-create the efforts of MADD–only instead of DWI, the target would be DWF (Driving While Fatigued).

A study by researchers in Australia showed that being awake for 18 hours produced an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and .10 after 24 hours; .08 is considered legally drunk. 

Unfortunately, many people do not look upon drowsy driving as a serious problem. Perhaps if you knew that you were intoxicated, you might hand your keys to someone else to help you get home safely.  Why would you choose to be safe in one case and not the other?

Many crashes are caused by drowsy drivers, because there is often little or no attempt to stop a collision.  Crash investigators often notice the absence of skid marks or other signs of braking; this may be evidence of microsleep .

And read about Sleep Inertia here.