Monthly Archives: February 2015

Remembering AnnaLeah & Mary in A Treasury of Karth Family Recipes

A Treasury of Family Recipes 1 pdfA Treasury of Family Recipes pdf

Last night, I finally got around to making some corrections on my cookbook of family favorites. When I went to save it, I was amazed to discover that the last time I had revised it was exactly two years ago (February 27, 2013). Mary and AnnaLeah (and Caleb) were around then to make suggestions about what to add to my previous edition, and there are multiple references to them in the recipes, as well as photos.

I am printing it off today for a wedding shower gift and had to take care of errors, including auto-corrections by my computer such as buttermilk when I was writing butter and the “wrong” recipes for cranberry and pumpkin bread.

Of course, I had to find some more food photos to post which remind me of them.  https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=791399357609247&id=464993830249803

Sweet memories. Sigh.

Here is the full revised cookbook (first revision on February 27, 2013 and second revision on February 27, 2015):

A Treasury of Karth Family Recipes Third Edition

Time is Short: Comment Now on Proposed Rule to Raise Minimum Liability Insurance for Trucking

IMG_4457

(Photo courtesy Georgia State Patrol, May 4, 2013)

Don’t take my word for it (alone); examine the issue and decide for yourself. Time is short to make a  public comment on a federal regulation to raise the minimum liability insurance for trucking companies. FMCSA already has the responsibility and authority to set these limits; they simply have not raised them (for inflation) for over 30 years.

See what you think of this comment on the Federal Register:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FMCSA-2014-0211-1596 :  I am a 1 truck leased Owner Operator. I have over a million miles safe driving without a single recordable accident.

It appears greed is trying to enter into my life again, by means of greedy lawyers trying to get more money from insurances that myself and my company pay for. All the companies I’ve ever worked with and worked for have ALWAYS requested and received safety and driving records prior to hiring or leasing me or my equipment. So if I was unsafe or going to be a large financial risk I would be turned down for employment. I don’t see any reason to raise current insurance coverage. Being there is a very very small percent of incidences that would require anymore insurance than I already have. The needless financial burden this would put on myself and my company would more than likely put me out of business and out of the trucking industry for good. I have no way to pass this extra cost on to my customers. For they would not understand or agree to pay for a rate increase do to my liability costs. My trucking business relationships don’t and never will function this way. This goes back to my previous statement of being employed because I’m safe and not a huge financial risk. The second I have astronomical rate increases will portray me to be a larger financial risk.

Also, who would pay for something they will never come close to using. The shear amount of destruction that would have to occur to even come close to using such a policy amount is very small. So small that it would never happen to and never does happen to the very large majority of trucking operations.

Please use knowledge and good sense to turn down these proposed increases.

In contrast, read these comments:

According to our research, the fears of astronomical increases in premiums are unfounded. In addition, the attitude shown in these comments is disturbing to someone who knows all too well the devastation that comes from being part of that small percentage of tragedies that you never really thought would touch you.

The changes which this rule would bring about will not have any bearing on our truck crash which occurred on May 4, 2013. But I am convinced that this rule is vitally important for countless truck crashes which will occur in the days and years ahead.

Public Comments must be submitted by February 26, 2015. Go here and click the Green Button, Submit a Formal Comment:  https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/11/28/2014-28076/financial-responsibility-for-motor-carriers-freight-forwarders-and-brokers

Public Comments 002

You can read all of the Public Comments here (and can search for your own comment with the Search function, after it gets posted):  http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketBrowser;rpp=100;so=DESC;sb=docId;po=0;dct=PS;D=FMCSA-2014-0211

Public Comments 006

headstone

Safety Advocates Call for Reform in Auto Safety Recalls

Dsc00920

Thirty-eight years ago, my first job out of college was a position as a local chapter director of a statewide patient advocacy organization for nursing home patients–Citizens for Better Care–in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Little did I know that someday I would be advocating for improved safety for travelers on the roads of our country–at a high price, of course, because I had become enlightened, enraged, and empowered due to the loss of my daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13), as a result of a potentially-preventable truck crash.

I have primarily been learning about and advocating for change in truck safety issues. But through my research, I have become aware of many other safety issues and numerous other safety advocates who are working hard to bring about change for us all. Just recently, I found the website called Care for Crash Victims–focused for the most part on victims of car crashes .

http://www.careforcrashvictims.com/

“This web site named ‘Care for Crash Victims’ is a project of a small business public benefit enterprise, Louis V. Lombardo, LLC.  The mission is to improve care for crash victims before, during, and after a crash.  We are all crash victims — past, present, and future — as individuals, families, friends and society.  All of us are impacted by crashes as consumers, insurance premium payers, and tax payers.”

I think that I might have contacted them through their site; in any case, I am now on their email list for receiving updates. This morning, I received an email with a link to an article about a push by consumer advocates who are calling for reform in auto safety recalls. I found out that,

Auto safety advocates will begin testifying in Annapolis Tuesday for a package of innovative reforms that promise to speed up the recall of unsafe cars, help get better safety information to MD carbuyers, and make sure every car purchaser has a fair chance at a good deal on a new car. 

Key supporters of the legislation include Jack Fitzgerald, Laura Christian, and ConsumerAuto.org. Jack Fitzgerald is the chairman of Fitzgerald Auto Malls and one of MD’s leading car dealers for almost 50 years. Laura Christian is the mother of Amber Marie Rose, a 16-year MD girl who in 2005 became one of the first people to lose her life as a result of the deadly ignition switch flaw that has now caused the recall of more than 16 million GM cars.”

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/victims-mother-and-consumer-advocates-call-for-reforms-in-auto-safety-recalls-300039501.html

Consumer Auto.org recently released this video in which Laura Christian tells her story and calls for change:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNgimJ4DSQk

http://www.consumerauto.org/

I hope that you will join with many others to stand up for needed changes in such a way that safety problems can no longer be swept under a rug. Otherwise, we will all continue to be at the mercy of poor decisions which cause unnecessary tragedy on the roads of our country.

IMG_4491

Speak Up For Increased Trucker Minimum Insurance; Rally With Us To Be Heard Above the Vocal Opposition

Petition Photo Bags at DOT, bestPhoto Button

With the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in the process of considering a rulemaking to increase the minimum liability, NOW is the time to speak up in support of increasing minimum liability insurance for trucking companies.

Please take 5 minutes to submit a comment to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration supporting an inflation adjustment of liability insurance requirements that have been unchanged since the Reagan Administration. It is critically important for truck accident victims (often truck drivers), who almost never get a full recovery even when receiving policy limits.

To submit a comment to the FMCSA, go here and click on Submit a Formal Comment: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/11/28/2014-28076/financial-responsibility-for-motor-carriers-freight-forwarders-and-brokers

Note: If you have already signed the AnnaLeah & Mary Petition, you can also individually sign the Federal Register. I have verified this with the administrative official at FMCSA who posted our petition to the Public Comments.

In your own words, tell FMCSA that you think it is important for them to proceed with the rulemaking to raise the minimum liability insurance for truck drivers.

The deadline for submitting Public Comments is FEBRUARY 26.

What follows is our Public Comment on this issue. . .

A fair-minded, thoughtful citizen would evaluate this issue from every angle and make comments accordingly. As parents of two daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13), who are no longer with us due to a truck crash on May 4, 2013, that is what we tried to do–and have continued to do–in the aftermath of this unimaginable tragedy.

Our story and the changes we are trying to make–including increased minimum liability insurance for trucking–can be found in great detail at http://annaleahmary.com/ .

We have not merely reacted emotionally but have gathered facts and even played the devil’s advocate in questioning our own thoughts and actions. As we read the comments from others, we too often find that others are less circumspect. Let me try to address some of the factors involved in this complex issue.

Perhaps the simplest thing to say is that our first acquaintance with this issue was when we were told by our U.S. Senator, Richard Burr (R-NC), that the Secretary of Transportation actually has the authority to raise the level of the minimum liability insurance for truckers. This was intended when Congress gave DOT the mandate for this regulation; nonetheless–despite inflation–DOT has not taken action to bring about an increase since it was set at $750,000 in 1980–over 35 years. Adjusted for the rate of medical inflation, the $750,000 minimum would be over $4.4 million today.

Is this logical? Is it common sense? Would it be acceptable for say your salary/wages? Many others have written on the mathematics of this, e.g., you can find a detailed analysis at this website, http://saferhighways-oneclickpolitics.nationbuilder.com/ , with some of the key points listed below:

  • The purpose of insurance is to spread risk for catastrophic loss.
  • One of the original purposes of federally-mandated insurance minimums was increased safety entry standards for commercial truck drivers who wish to transport people and goods. This continues to be a goal of insurance—the driver who can’t afford insurance also can’t afford routine maintenance of brakes, tires and other equipment.
  • The safer a company is, the lower its insurance rates.
  • The FMCSA’s report to Congress gave the legislative history of the 1980 minimum insurance levels. Part of that history is that minimum levels were set to ”assure the public safety is not jeopardized”. Another part of that history was setting insurance minimums to achieve a level ”sufficient to require on site inspection by the insurance company with minimums to be updated regularly.”
  • It is basic economics that all prices must eventually be adjusted for inflation. The time has passed to adjust the minimum insurance limits for inflation.

Secondly, I would like to address the concern that many trucking companies–particularly the smaller ones–keep bringing up. They are convinced that if the minimum level is raised, their premiums will skyrocket and consequently put them out of business.

On April 17, 2014, OOIDA, which is the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association http://www.ooida.com/,  wrote about this in a press release (http://www.ooida.com/MediaCenter/PressReleases/pressrelease.asp?prid=344 ):

FMCSA acknowledges that more than 99 percent of commercial vehicle accidents are readily covered under current requirements and that they have not done an assessment of the financial impact that increased requirements would have on small businesses. 

“Even though the agency’s report confirms that fewer than one percent of all truck-involved accidents result in injuries or property damage that exceed current insurance requirements, it seems pretty clear they plan to raise those requirements anyway,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president. 

OOIDA contends that an increase in insurance would be a death nail for the small businesses that comprise over 90 percent of the trucking industry.

In response to OOIDA’s comment about “fewer than one percent,” our son Peter made this observation prior to our meeting with FMCSA on May 5, 2014,

The 1% issue is at best a red herring. Refusing to raise a limit because such a small percentage reach the limit only indicates that the increase in cost should be minimal. It can’t be both ways, either this increase should raise the cost of doing business or the effect should be minimal.

This isn’t life insurance where all the money is always paid out. Nor is this homeowner’s insurance in which you have a set amount of house that can be destroyed. This is liability insurance in which the amount paid out is based on the amount of damage being done. If such a small percentage of claims reaches the limit, then greedy lawyers, increased costs, and mythical “windfall” payments are all proven absurd or irrelevant. 

What we actually have here is discrimination against the minority. “You are so small a portion of the people we harm we are not obliged to deal with you fairly.” Under such logic, they might as well suggest that they shouldn’t be compelled to have insurance at all.

Furthermore, not everyone in the trucking industry would agree with OOIDA. We noted a Public Comment on December 3, 2014, by Brian Taylor as a spokesperson for a trucking company ( http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FMCSA-2014-0211-0057 ):

We are a 23 truck fleet and carry 25 million in liability insurance. We carry that much to protect not only us but our customers. The argument that only 1 % of the claims exceed the current threshold for insurance makes no sense. You carry insurance to cover you no matter what happens. 1 % exposure is too much. The fact that it seldom happens makes the coverage cheap. The actuaries price according to probability. I don’t believe that this coverage will be cost prohibitive unless the carrier has a dismal safety rating in which case they shouldn’t be in business. When carriers don’t carry enough coverage the expose responsible carriers, shippers and the general public. We need responsible carriers, pricing their services correctly to cover all costs and excepting responsibility for the liability created by their business. Skirting this liability and charging for services is deceptive to shippers and puts the public or state at financial risk in the form of a claim that is part of a service they get no remuneration for. When you provide a service, charge fees and profit you must also be responsible financially which means carrying adequate insurance.

I want to say a few additional things, in response to trucking industry concerns about a raise in premiums.

In preparing to travel to Washington,  DC, on May 5, 2014, to present over 11,000 AnnaLeah & Mary Stand Up For Truck Safety Petitions to DOT, I wanted to have accurate information to be able to intelligently discuss this issue and our concerns with DOT administrative officials. As a result, I found out some interesting information by making phone calls to insurance companies.

It is very difficult to get information on trucking insurance rates unless you are actually applying. And the information which I got included this (from my email correspondence to family members where I recorded my phone calls in April & May 2014):

  • I could not get anything from Travelers about internal company information. She told me that I could submit a request for information in writing to “Procurement” with my company name, research I am doing, reasons for wanting the information and general questions. They will respond–even if (probably) only to say  that they cannot give me any information.
  • Also, one of the first things which I found out was that Geico transfers calls requesting information about trucking insurance to OOIDA agents! I did not finish that  call.

I was suddenly enlightened to find out that OOIDA is actually–among other things– a large, for-profit insurer of owner-operator truck drivers. That set off a lot of red flags in my mind. How much control do they actually have over the premiums which most independent truck drivers end up paying? http://www.ooidatruckinsurance.com/

Aside from that, many of the truck drivers/companies which I see making comments complain about how the premiums will skyrocket. But on what are they basing that opinion?

John Lannen, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, has shared background information with us which he has gathered from numerous sources, presentations, and conversations regarding the economics of additional insurance coverage for motor carriers.  It turns out that the first million dollars’ worth of  trucking insurance is the most expensive and each incremental amount is cheaper.  Additional points include:

$1,000,000 in carrier liability coverage per unit can range from $4,500  – $8,000.  The FMCSA used an estimate of $5,000 per unit for the first $1M in their study.

– In today’s marketplace, the second million is quite a bit more affordable, even for small fleets.  A cost estimate for an additional $1M coverage (to raise the limit to $2M total) is $1,000 to $1,500 for the second million per unit annually.

– For the first $1M, some small motor carriers can gain access to a group purchasing model if they are closely aligned to a large motor carrier. 

– There are both national insurance companies and regional insurance companies focused on this market.  The national carriers are developing more sophisticated underwriting models that consider tens of underwriting characteristics as well as regional pricing competition.

– Estimates for the cost for the third additional million (3 million total)  are much cheaper than the second million, which was considerably cheaper than the first. As the risk of a payout goes down, so does the cost of additional coverage.  

If it is so hard to get information on the question of how much the premiums would actually increase if the minimum liability is raised, then on what are these statements based which are made by the people who claim it will put them out of business?

It is my understanding from FMCSA, in our meeting with them on May 5, 2014, that even they have a hard time getting that information from insurance companies and that the rule-making process would give them authority to get that kind of information from insurance companies in order to be able to make a fully-informed policy decision. I look forward to seeing what they find out.

In regard to the issue of “will it put them out of business?”. . . I hope that responsible, accountable, safety-minded companies with the best interests at heart–of both their truck drivers and the other travelers on the road–would have good records and have decisions and actions at all levels which would withstand the impact of a change which has been needed for some time. If not, then perhaps it is better for them to not be in business any longer.

Besides which, if small trucking companies are under-insured, then they might be taking the chance of losing everything if involved in a catastrophic accident.

There is another thing which I wanted to mention and that is the concern about frivolous lawsuits. Exactly upon what are people basing their claim that there are too many frivolous lawsuits related to truck crashes? If there is only a totaled car, do they really think that there will be an attempt to get the full available amount? And when there are fatalities involved, then there is a reason why laws were changed to allow wrongful death suits.

Fatality is a word that can too easily cover up the unimaginable, tragic grief which family members are left with after the death of a loved one in a truck crash. It is true that no settlement amount will ever assuage (appease, mollify, soothe) the terrible pain and gaping hole left by an unexpected loss. But I encourage you to put yourself in the shoes of a bereaved family and imagine that this is what wrongful death laws are about–above and beyond covering the immediate expenses incurred from the crash.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrongful_death_claim

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solatium Solatium (plural solatia) is a form of compensation for emotional rather than physical or financial harm.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatal_Accidents_Act_1846

  • The Fatal Accidents Act 1846 (9 & 10 Vict. c.93), commonly known as Lord Campbell’s Act, was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, that, for the first time in England and Wales, allowed relatives of people killed by the wrongdoing of others to recover damages.
  • Under the common law of England and Wales, the death of a person causes solely emotional and pure economic loss to their relatives. In general, damages cannot be recovered for either type of damage, only for physical damage to the claimant or their property. This was the rule declared by the court in Baker v. Bolton (1808).[1][2][3] Scottishlaw was different in that the court could grant a solatium in acknowledgment of the family’s grief.[4][5]
  • Thus, if a person was injured through a tort, the wrongdoer would be liable for causing injury. If the person were killed, there would be no liability. Perversely, the wrongdoer had a financial interest in killing, rather than injuring, a victim.

In fact, many times I have thought of the fact that there were more actual expenses for our daughter who required hospitalization before her death than for our daughter who died at the scene of the crash–her life abruptly ended. Without the ability to claim a wrongful death, what would we be left with besides compensation for her burial expenses? (And even saying that is likely to be misunderstood.) Surely her life was of more value than that.

11,000+ signatures from the AnnaLeah & Mary Stand Up For Truck Safety Petition have been added to the Public Comments on this rulemaking: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FMCSA-2014-0211-0111

Note: If you have already signed the AnnaLeah & Mary Petition, you can also individually sign the Federal Register. I have verified this with the administrative official at FMCSA who posted our petition to the Public Comments. Please lend your support by clicking on this link and then clicking on Submit a Formal Comment in order to post your comment:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/11/28/2014-28076/financial-responsibility-for-motor-carriers-freight-forwarders-and-brokers

 The deadline for submitting Public Comments is FEBRUARY 26.

Some are opposing the proposed rule-making, claiming it is all about lawyers who want more money for themselves and disregarding the impact on lives and families devastated in truck crashes.

IMG_4467gertie 2947

 

Marijuana Impairs Judgment, Reaction Times, & Awareness

What will be the impact of increased use of marijuana on road safety?

NHTSA recently commented on this question ( http://ht.ly/IDHau )  :

“. . . even as drinking and driving continues to fall, use of illegal drugs or medicines that can affect road safety is climbing. The number of weekend nighttime drivers with evidence of drugs in their system climbed from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2014. The number of drivers with marijuana in their system grew by nearly 50 percent.

A second survey, the largest of its kind ever conducted, assessed whether marijuana use by drivers is associated with greater risk of crashes. The survey found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in accidents, but that the increased risk may be due in part because marijuana users are more likely to be in groups at higher risk of crashes. In particular, marijuana users are more likely to be young men – a group already at high risk.

This was the most precisely controlled study of its kind yet conducted, but it measured the risk associated with marijuana at the levels found among drivers in a large community. Other studies using driving simulators and test tracks have found that marijuana at sufficient dosage levels will affect driver risk.

Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness,’ said Jeff Michael, NHTSA’s associate administrator for research and program development. ‘These findings highlight the importance of research to better understand how marijuana use affects drivers so states and communities can craft the best safety policies.’

The study, conducted in Virginia Beach, Va., gathered data over a 20-month period from more than 3,000 drivers who were involved in crashes, as well as a comparison group of 6,000 drivers who did not crash. The study found that drivers who had been drinking above the 0.08 percent legal limit had about 4 times the risk of crashing as sober drivers and those with blood alcohol levels at 0.15 percent or higher had 12 times the risk.

NHTSA plans a series of additional studies to further understand the risk of drugged driving, including the Washington State Roadside Survey, which will assess risk in a state where marijuana has recently been legalized, and a simulator study with the National Institute on Drug Abuse to assess how drivers under the influence of drugs behave behind the wheel.”

More sources:

 

IMG_4519

(Photo is of our car hit by a truck and pushed under another truck; marijuana was not cited as a cause, but truck driver fatigue might have been a factor which also impairs driving reaction times.)

Road Safety Wake-Up Call: Let’s Not Settle For The Status Quo

gertie 132

Britain experienced an increase in road casualties in the 12-month period ending September 2014. Some see it as a wake-up call:

“Pete Williams, RAC head of external affairs, said: ‘It is alarming to see that years of progress on road safety appears to have come to an abrupt halt, and in fact we have witnessed the first year-on-year rise in road fatalities and casualties in over 30 years.

‘We need a commitment to a long-term vision of nobody being killed or seriously injured on our roads, rather than settling for the status quo.’ . . .

‘This is surely the wake-up call that is needed to give the topic the attention and resources it deserves.’ . . .

The IAM expressed its ‘disappointment’ at the rise in KSIs, blaming the increase on ‘many years of Government cutbacks and the resulting drop in visible policing’. ”

– See more at: http://www.roadsafetygb.org.uk/news/4171.html#sthash.F1gVBpP8.dpuf

Of course, the responsibility for the occurrence of road crashes, fatalities, and injuries is rightfully a shared matter. Likewise doing something to bring about change should also be shared.

Ignoring the problem is not the answer. Pointing the finger at someone else (while denying your own culpability) is also not the answer. Working together sounds like a good idea to me.

gertie 2947

Truck Safety Advocacy: Make Safe Happen

Like most anyone else, I wasn’t prepared for how the Nationwide Make Safe Happen Superbowl commercial turned out.  And, as a mom of two teenage daughters who died as a result of a potentially-preventable truck crash (through no fault of their own), it triggered memories of many grieving moments when I realize all of the things that AnnaLeah and Mary will never do again–or never do at all.

But I appreciate the effort that Nationwide made to draw attention to preventable deaths and catalyze a nation-wide conversation about safety.  We will never completely stop all “accidental” deaths. But we can do a whole lot to save one life at a time. 

Here’s our story and my thoughts on MakeSafeHappen:  http://youtu.be/mwdfYzNowtQ

Thank you, Nationwide, for this conversation-starter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKUy-tfrIHY. I would have produced & aired a commercial like that about truck safety if I had had the resources. It was a brilliant move!