Monthly Archives: August 2014

We rescue, Jesus saves.

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We Rescue, Jesus Saves: This sign outside a fire station caught my eye.

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Safety Is No Accident: Preventing a crash takes work.


Once a crash has happened, heroes come to the rescue.


Sometimes all their efforts are to no avail.

May 8, 2014 from Kathryn

But the good news is: Jesus Saves.

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Fatigue in Transport…from an Australian source

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I read this recently from an Australian paper on fatigue in transport. . .

“Human fatigue is now recognised around the world as being the main cause of accidents in the transport industry. It is increasingly being recognised as a safety issue of the highest priority.

The issue of fatigue in the workplace in all modes of transportation and even beyond transportation is something that is exploding as a priority issue across the industrialised world. (Transcript of evidence, 10 September 1999, Melbourne, p.186 (Prof. David Dinges).

Fatigue is not just an industrial issue to be negotiated between employers and employees. It is also an occupational health and safety issue, a commercial issue, a public safety issue and, at times, an environmental issue. Individuals and organisations that fail to manage human fatigue sensibly, risk having or creating accidents with a broad range of damaging and enduring consequences.”

AnnaLeah’s Very-Thorough 30-Category Booklist

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Serendipity…I was looking for something and found something else. I was looking for a photo and found a list which AnnaLeah had made—probably in the last year or so of her life. (I found the photo later.)

Actually, she made lots of lists. With this one, it seemed that she wanted to make a reader think about all of the books which they had read and decide which ones fit into 30 different categories of books that “you” had read.

Clearly, reading books was very important to her. She also liked to talk about them whenever possible. So, how would you have responded if AnnaLeah had given this list to you?

1. Best book you read last year
2. A book you’ve read more than three times
3. Your favorite series
4. A guilty pleasure book
5. A book that makes you happy
6. A book that makes you sad
7. Most underrated
8. Most overrated
9. A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
10. Favorite classic book
11. A book you hated
12. The first novel you remember reading
13. Your favorite writer
14. Favorite book of your favorite writer
15. Book that should be on high school/college required reading list
16. Book that you would recommend to ignorant/close-minded/racist person
17. Favorite quote from your favorite book
18. A book that disappointed you
19. Favorite book turned into a movie
20. Book turned into a movie and completely desecrated
21. Favorite book from your childhood
22. The book that made you fall in love with reading
23. A book you’ve wanted to read for a long time but haven’t
24. A book that you wish more people would’ve read
25. A character you can relate to the most
26. A book that changed your opinion about something
27. Most surprising plot twist or ending
28. Favorite title
29. A book that makes you cry
30. Your favorite book of all time

AnnaLeah had answered 6 of her questions. I wonder if she could have answered them all but just didn’t write down her answers. I wonder what she would have written.

Here is a printable pdf of AnnaLeah’s Booklist–in case you want to take up AnnaLeah’s Challenge:  AnnaLeah’s 30 Category Booklist

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A Question About FMCSA Monitoring & Enforcement of Underride Guards

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I wrote to a number of people last week about my frustration with the many trucks which I see on the road with underride guards that I am not very confident could withstand a crash. This, naturally, is distressing to someone who has lost a loved one due to an underride guard that did not withstand a crash.

I expressed my concern that little appeared to be happening in terms of monitoring underride guards. I asked them to show me if I was wrong.

This week, I got a reply from Jack Van Steenburg, Chief Safety Officer with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in Washington, DC. This is what he explained to me about their role in monitoring underride guards (among other things):


I will reply to this email as your others on this subject are captured below.

First, let me state that underride protection requirements are identified in our Safety Regulations under 49CFR§393.86,  Rear impact guards and rear end protection. (  This section is covered and taught to all certified Inspectors across the United States in our North American Standard Truck Inspection course.

To date, in 2014 there have been 2,358 violations of this regulation written by Inspectors.  If a traffic ticket was written to a driver for this violation, then he/she is responsible for the violation.  In all cases, the motor carrier has to repair or fix any violation cited on the inspection report within 15 days following the date of inspection.  The states follow up with the carriers to assure the violations are fixed.

The violations cited for this section, and any other vehicle equipment violation, are captured in our safety data and are a component of the formula that drives our CSA Safety Measurement System Unsafe Driving BASIC.  If that BASIC (as well as others) exceeds a certain threshold, then we will take some type of intervention ranging from a warning letter outlining the equipment concerns to a full comprehensive on site compliance review.  There are many penalties a carrier can receive ranging from a notice of violation all the way to an Unsatisfactory rating.  Those processes are set out in our regulations as well.

I might add that all states have adopted the 49CFR §393.86,  Rear impact guards and rear end protection, section within their own laws.

I hope this answers some of your questions.


Jack Van Steenburg”

I replied to his email:


Thank you for your detailed response in describing the regulation, training, and inspection process. I am glad to see that there is a procedure in place.

2,358 violations issued out of 2 million tractor trailers = .12%

Hopefully, the other 1,997,642 (or 99.88%) are in better shape than the ones which received violations this year.
How many trucks operate in the U.S.?
Estimates of 15.5 million trucks operate in the U.S.. Of this figure 2 million are tractor trailers.”
(Unfortunately, there is nothing that I can do to make those existing 2 million trailers have a more effective design. But I wish that I could hurry along even faster the improvement of the underride guards on future tractor trailers!)

Reckless Driving & Criminal Injustice: One More Grief For Victims to Bear

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MOM (Mad Old Mother) has had it up to here!

I have been frustrated this week with the unveiling of new details which compound the lack of accountability and justice in our truck crash. Basically, once a truck driver is charged with homicide by vehicle, second degree–which is a misdemeanor–there is, too often, no chance that anyone will dig deeper and see if it would be more appropriately charged as first degree–a felony.

The result: a homicide for which no one is held responsible.

Then I read this morning about 7 family members killed in a truck crash on August 15, 2013. The surviving family just found out that, ” there are no charges being filed against this truck driver. The prosecutor’s office said tests showed there were no drugs or alcohol in the Michigan trucker’s system at the time of the fatal crash.”

Law Enforcement is in the habit of charging truck drivers with Homicide by Vehicle, Second Degree: A Misdemeanor. Current Laws do not define their actions as Reckless.

End Result: There is no Accountability for their Actions.

Wake up, world! According to Georgia law (where our crash occurred), “reckless driving is defined as driving a vehicle in a manner that shows reckless disregard for the safety of person or property.”

Of course, truck drivers are not charged with reckless driving because they did not set out to intentionally harm someone.

I am not saying that every truck crash fatality is due to reckless driving. But Everybody needs to understand that truck drivers get on the road in a Death Machine.

Drivers need to be properly trained and educated to understand that their Every Action can mean the difference between life & death. Especially Driving While Fatigued! (DWF)

Trucking companies need to schedule and pay their drivers with the full knowledge that they bear a part of the blame if truck drivers are fatigued.

Law Enforcement needs to rethink their attitude. State departments of motor vehicle & public safety need to be more vigilant. Truck driver training schools need to train their drivers more thoroughly. County prosecutors need to become educated about the dangers of Driving While Fatigued. Laws need to be changed to reflect this deadly and overlooked reality. And the Trucking Industry needs to acknowledge that putting drivers on the road with Unsafe Equipment makes them Culpable in this Reckless behavior as well.

Injustice in truck crashes needs to stop! and #trucksafety #nojustice #driverfatiguefelony

Safety: I do not think that word means what you think it means.


Safety is a word perhaps too freely used. What is the dictionary definition? According to Google, it is “the condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury.” It is “the state of being safe” and safe meaning “free from hurt, injury, danger, or risk” according to

I used to feel so confident in praying for safety and that He would keep us safe and free from harm as we embarked upon a road trip. Then came May 4, 2013.

After I was discharged from the hospital in Georgia, Jerry and I drove to Texas to join all of our children (well, seven of the nine) where they had gathered for support and for Rebekah’s wedding on May 11. We missed the wedding (saw it via webcam in Mississippi) by a few hours.

A week later, as we drove from Arlington, Texas, to Midland, Texas, for the girls’ first of two funerals, I was reading Psalm 91*: “For He will give His angels charge concerning you,  to guard you in all your ways.” I texted our pastor in Midland about those verses–voicing my confidence in our Father’s care in the midst of confusion about what it really meant. He said that he would be speaking to that the next day in his sermon: “AnnaLeah & Mary are where they belong.”

I am no theologian–just a mother grieving the loss of two of her beloved children, trying to come to terms with unexpected, tragic deaths which make no sense. Over the months, I have continued to read my Bible and question the words as I come across them:  guard, protect, security, rescue, deliver… And I ask myself, “What does this mean?”

Mary took this photo, during Confirmation class, a few months before the crash which took her life:

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I went and got AnnaLeah’s copy of Luther’s Catechism just now and it opened to that very same page. I turned the pages until I found this promise that our heavenly Father will rescue us from evil:

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The reality is that , when we travel on the road, we cannot expect that an angel will guard us from all harm and danger. We cannot expect to be shielded from horrific injury and death. We can, however, expect that our heavenly Father will receive those who believe into His loving arms.

We are charged with taking responsible actions to protect travelers on the road.  We means you and me.  We are in this together.  Please take the time to figure out just what is your part in this life & death matter.  Somebody could be counting on you.

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*Update (September 27, 2015): A few days ago, we received a letter in the mail.

“Your appeal for funding for truck underride research is a godly and needed effort which will save many lives. May the Lord bless and prosper this undertaking. It will be an extension of Psalm 91. God works sovereignly but also through means.”

My thoughts return, again and again, to this note we received, along with a check to AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety. There is a balm in Gilead.

Underride Research Meme

Join us as we push for better underride proection. Donate to Underride Research at AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety:

Law Enforcement: With Justice For All…Balancing Truth & Love


 This could be one of the harder things which I have written—putting in a nutshell the depth of our frustration with the circumstances surrounding the investigation of two senseless deaths.

This morning I read once more about what Mary said to Jesus after her brother Lazarus had died, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Later, we find out that, “Jesus wept.” And I was reading this in the context of verses about prayer: “And everything you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive,” said Jesus.

The reality is that (until Jesus comes back again) we humans will all die a physical death. Robin Williams has died recently, as has Lauren Bacall. Due to a great variety of reasons, we will all die. And, despite nothing being impossible for God, most of us are not likely to be raised from the dead until The Last Day.

I know that. I accept that. But, what is excruciatingly hard for me to understand and accept is the fact that there are so many factors that are involved in the potentially-preventable deaths of AnnaLeah and Mary—so many, in fact, that it is all too easy for no one to bear the responsibility.

I have written a post entitled, “Our Crash Was Not An Accident,” in which I spell out many of those factors:

In addition to the many “truck safety” issues which I have written about before—including underride guards, driver fatigue, and minimum liability insurance (which, of course, is not about safety but about adequately providing for the needs of crash victims after the fact)—I want to address two other issues.

They are law enforcement and CDLs. Both of them are huge topics, so I will concentrate on law enforcement now and leave CDLs for another time.

Not being sure that enforcement was the best choice of words, I looked up the definition and found that it indeed provides an apt description of that activity about which I wish to speak:

Law enforcement broadly refers to any system by which some members of society act in an organized manner to enforce the law by discovering, deterring, rehabilitating persons who violate the rules and norms governing that society. Although the term may encompass entities such as courts and prisons, it is most frequently applied to those who directly engage in patrols or surveillance to dissuade and discover criminal activity, and those who investigate crimes and apprehend offenders.”

Basically, on top of the loss of Mary and AnnaLeah, we have had our pain amplified by what has seemed to be a superficial handling of the circumstances of their deaths by law enforcement officials—in effect, making too light of it. Sure, we could have a distorted perception which might appear bitter;  I admit that my anger might sometimes sway my analysis. But our reaction has been confirmed by others who have viewed it from a more objective position.

Let me try to summarize it here—a very difficult task:

  • The Crash Reconstruction Report, which we received seven months after the crash, was, according to our attorney, very disappointing and inadequate. Questions About Justice in the State of Georgia
  • Although the case is still pending, from what we have been told, the truck driver is likely to get by with a relatively light sentence based upon two counts of Homicide by Vehicle, Second Degree (a misdemeanor).  Re-examine the Definition of Reckless Driving 2  According to the DA’s office, he is not likely to get jail time.
  • Despite any improvement in trucking regulations such as Hours of Service (to combat the problem of driver fatigue) and Medical Cards, these regulations are worthless if the investigating officers do not get to the bottom of these issues in a particular crash.  Questions About Justice in the State of Georgia
  • Not all truck crashes are primarily caused by the truck driver (although what testimony do we hear from the dead car driver?), but when they are, and the investigation does not thoroughly uncover what led to the crash, what kind of a deterrent will a light sentence provide to that driver or other drivers?
  • Particularly in the case of driver fatigue. . . Re-examine the Definition of Reckless Driving 2
  • Calling it an Accident removes Accountability.

So who is taking responsibility for this crash  and its investigation (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?

When will everyone stop looking the other way–“doing the GM nod” of inertia and incompetence–letting someone else (i.e., nobody) shoulder the blame?

And this is only one “small” part of a huge mess of truck safety issues. When will we figure out that the widespread problem of truck safety (i.e., deaths and horrific injuries caused in crashes with trucks) is multifaceted and that a fragmented attack/approach to solving this disaster is never going to be very effective when everyone involved can point the finger of blame at someone else. . .and, sometimes, the scapegoat of a truck driver will get a slap on their wrist?

Over the course of the year following the crash, we have made many phone calls and sent many emails and letters. We have gotten very little in the way of answers to satisfy our need to understand what happened and to convince us that justice will be carried out.

And what is justice—morally right and fair—in this case? Does it mean looking the other way because he “didn’t mean to do it”? Does it mean showing him mercy and forgetting about it to the extent of meting out little or no consequences? Does it mean giving him a slap on the wrist because “there but for the grace of God go I”? These are hard questions.

We want to know the truth. Love for our daughters and for all travelers on the road—and for the truck drivers as well—drives our quest. The truth is said to set us free. Will the truth enable us, as a country, to free ourselves from injustice and from foolishly ignoring the problems? Unless we face the truth, we will continue to allow senseless, potentially-preventable crashes to rob us of loved ones.

With a potential trial date coming up the week of September 8,  I again attempted to get some answers and, earlier this week, wrote to the new Commanding Officer of the Georgia State Patrol. This was my closing plea:

“If this crash had killed your two children, Taylor and Logan, I wonder whether you would be satisfied with an investigation like the one which we have experienced with our crash.”

Please pray that our relentless demand for answers will ultimately lead to meaningful and enduring change.

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May 8, 2014 from Kathryn

Investigative Report on Underride Guards in Atlanta

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Jim Strickland, consumer investigator with WSB-TV in Atlanta, looked into underride guard problems in November 2013 in the Atlanta area and reported on them:

Here is his newscast in April 2014 after the National Transportation Safety Board issued their recommendations to NHTSA to improve underride guards:

When he found out that NHTSA had initiated a rulemaking process for underride guards, he wanted to do an update. He called me yesterday at 11 a.m. for a phone interview.

His report on underride guards,  our crash, and the AnnaLeah & Mary Stand Up For Truck Safety Petition was on WSB-TV Atlanta’s evening news yesterday in two parts first at 4:45 p.m. and the second part at 6:15 p.m.: and

Petition Photo Bags at DOT, best