Monthly Archives: June 2015

Crocodile Tears (Cost/Benefit Analysis) & Vision Zero Goal of No Crash Fatalities

There were so many factors that caused our road journey on May 4, 2013, to end in 2 crash fatalities. I have written about that before: .

In our quest to help prevent countless more lives from being foreverchanged, we have come up against the brick wall of attitudes which appear callous and too-accepting of crash deaths as an inevitable outcome of highway travel.

It is refreshing, therefore, to hear others who hold a different outlook and are bold to pursue it.

“Crocodile Tears for Heavy Vehicle Safety,” by George Rechnitzer, GR Crocodile_Tears for Heavy Vehicle Safety 2004

George starts out by saying, “. . .a front page feature caught my attention regarding: ‘community outrage’ following Australia’s well known crocodile man Steve Irwin holding his one-month old baby in one hand and feeding a large crocodile with the other. His response at such apparent community outrage and concern over the safety of his infant was that he was more worried about the safety of the baby travelling in a car than being eaten by a croc. I thought he had a point. . .

“Thinking of crocodiles, it also reminded me, once again, in this new year, of ‘crocodile tears’ being shed in some quarters over road safety, but little being done about conspicuous and well known causes of hundreds of fatalities and serious injuries on Australia’s roads every year–that is, crashes involving heavy vehicles and other road users.

“The biggest obstacle to improved heavy vehicle safety is a system that encourages and enables bureaucrats, regulators, and safety exponents, to hide behind mindless cost-benefit calculations to avoid requiring known and effective design improvements to heavy vehicles*. Yes, cost-benefit analysis indeed is the main culprit. In this regard, it is my opinion that Sweden has got it right, with their Vision Zero philosophy [13], which states that, ‘Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society.'”

George goes on to say, “So what cost-benefit analyses really means, is that when no action is taken to improve the design of heavy vehicles, people’s lives are being traded for reduced transport costs.”

“The Swedish Approach to Road Safety: The Accident is Not the Major Problem,” by Sarah Goodyear,“The largest resistance we got to the idea about Vision Zero was from those political economists that have built their whole career on cost-benefit analysis. For them it is very difficult to buy into ‘zero.’ Because in their economic models, you have costs and benefits, and although they might not say it explicitly, the idea is that there is an optimum number of fatalities. A price that you have to pay for transport.

‘The problem is the whole transport sector is quite influenced by the whole utilitarianist mindset. Now we’re bringing in the idea that it’s not acceptable to be killed or seriously injured when you’re transporting. It’s more a civil-rights thing that you bring into the policy.”

(* My note: For example, improved rear underride guards, side underride guards, front underride guards. mwkarth)

I survived an underride crash, but only because our car went backwards under the truck.

I am able to be an advocate — a vocal spokesperson on behalf of truck underride victims — only because our car was hit by a truck which spun us and then hit us again and thereby pushed us backwards into the rear of another truck.

The underride guard on the back of the truck did not withstand the crash (which is, in fact, the norm because current federal standards are ineffective) and neither did my two daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13), who were in the back seat of the car which went underneath the truck. AnnaLeah died at the scene and Mary survived with horrific injuries–dying a few days later.

After finding out that it has already been proven that these underride guards are weak and ineffective, I have been thrust into the role of speaking up for improving the standards to provide stronger more effective underride protection to those who share the road with large trucks.

After we were joined, in the Spring of 2014, by over 11,000 people to petition Secretary Foxx to — among other things — improve the rule for underride guards, our petition was granted and a notice of rule making was issued for tractor-trailers:

We are waiting for this rule making to move forward to the next stage when we will be able to make Public Comments. This will be an important step and we will put out a call for support for this life-saving measure.

Recently, on June 12, 2015, the groundwork for a separate rule making on single unit trucks (currently not required to have underride guards, but responsible for countless crash fatalities) was sent to the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (Office of Management & Budget) for review:

Many advocates have worked hard before us to bring it to this point and together we need to continue forward until we have reached the goal of The Best Possible Protection.

Rebekah photo of crash

The Future of Underride Prevention: A conversation with underride researcher from Australia

Last evening, Jerry and I had a Skype phone call with Dr. George Rechnitzer from Melbourne, Australia. We had been corresponding with him via email for a few days, and he finally decided that we needed to have an actual conversation.

We had discovered the day before that George had done research twenty years ago to prove that more effective underride guards could be designed, built, and crash tested on actual trucks–at 75 km/h or 46 m/h.

George, a professor and researcher from Australia who has done research with Transport and Road Safety Research (TARS) authored this 315-page dissertation in 2003: The Improvement of Heavy Vehicle Design To Reduce Injury Risk In Crashes With Other Road Users

Here is George’s extensive resume–outlining his vast experience with safety research: GRA CV of Dr George Rechnitzer – June 2015

What impact could this have upon the future of underride prevention strategies and solutions?

gertie 2947IMG_4492


Truck Underride Prevention Research Too Long Neglected; How Long Will This Highway Carnage Continue?


(photo of our amazingly expressive Mary letting the world know her displeasure)

For far too long, the focus has disproportionately been on crash prevention solutions –at the expense of seriously examining the potential for innovative underride prevention solutions to prevent death when a truck crash actually does occur.

I just became aware of a research paper published in 1996 which clearly showed the potential for more effective underride protection: DEVELOPMENT AND TESTING OF ENERGY ABSORBING REAR UNDERRUN BARRIERS FOR HEAVY VEHICLES by George Rechnitzer  (presented at the 1996 International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles in Melbourne, Australia, which is sponsored by NHTSA).

Furthermore, George Rechnitzer, a professor and researcher from Australia who has done research with Transport and Road Safety Research (TARS) authored this dissertation in 2003: The Improvement of Heavy Vehicle Design To Reduce Injury Risk In Crashes With Other Road Users (2003)v=8b6a69875e67767ca2a4

Please take note of the insight into truck crash fatalities which he describes in the Introduction (pp. 9-10):

“The conspicuous slow progress in reducing well-known and solvable hazards, is well illustrated by crashes involving heavy vehicles. Problems with heavy vehicle design
have been documented for decades, as illustrated by this 1928 Times newspaper report
(Times, 1928):

“‘Dr F.J Waldo, the senior Coroner for London, stated yesterday that
during the past year he had held 63 inquiries into deaths due to road
accidents. Deaths were caused in 20 cases by lorries or commercial vans –
without side life guards which are compulsory on motor omnibuses. Nine
deaths were caused by private motor vehicles and eight by motor
omnibuses. Pedal cycles caused eight largely on account of skidding and
the fixture of a wheel in the grove of the tramlines. There were also six
deaths by horse vehicles, five by taxicabs, four by steam lorries two by
charabancs and one by fire engine. One sixth of the number occurred
among children and young people in the city.’

“Since that time, heavy vehicle design has not improved significantly in regard to
reducing their harm potential in crashes with other road users. In Australia, heavy
vehicle crashes contributed around 18% of road deaths overall, representing in the 10
years 1983 to 1993 around 4000 fatalities and 17000 seriously injured. Most at risk are
the “other road users” making up 80% of these fatalities.

“This thesis’ findings, based on the author’s extensive in-depth crash investigations and
literature review, identify that the lack of compatibility, and aggressiveness of heavy
vehicle design is a major causal factor leading to the over-representation of heavy
vehicles in serious injury and fatal crashes. These findings counter the commonly held
notions maintaining that the main problem is the mass of the heavy vehicle – a factor
that is not readily amenable to change. Importantly, the study clearly identified that
design changes to heavy vehicles can be effective in reducing the injury risk to other
road users.

“This body of the thesis presents the author’s work on the development of applied
countermeasures involving the design, and crash testing of effective rear underrun
barriers, both rigid and energy absorbing. The energy absorbing system developed is
innovative as it uses a fibreglass tube as the crushable medium contained with two
concertinaing steel tubes. The Research provides the basis for the development of new
performance criteria for effective rear underrun barriers catering for centred and offset impacts. At the time this work on the new system was being developed, it was the first of its type (to the author’s knowledge) in the world.

“The thesis concludes with presenting the important concept that crash protection for
occupants is a function of the nature of the interface between the impacting vehicles
and /or the person. This hypothesis provides an alternate perspective on what is feasible
in occupant protection in severe impact scenarios. It clearly shows that contrary to a
common view in road safety, vehicle mass per se is not the major determinate of injury
outcomes. Indeed this thesis demonstrates that injury protection is feasible against high mass vehicles be they trucks, trams or trains, by appropriate design of the interface between impacting objects.

Here are crash tests of the underride prevention protection designed by George Rechnitzer:

Here are additional research papers published by George Rechnitzer (in conjunction with other researchers):

Here’s a photo of AnnaLeah in 1996 —  when much of this research was available but apparently largely ignored — and Mary was a twinkle in her daddy’s eye.

11 Baby AnnaLeah one-year in field

So many lives could have been saved. If only. . . And why has this unconscionable* situation been allowed to go on for so long?! Enough is enough!

* excessive, unreasonable, unwarranted, uncalled for, unfair, inordinate, immoderate, undue, inexcusable, unforgivable, unnecessary, needless; informal over the top

You might be enlightened by the history of federal rulemaking on underride guards (found in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s testimony in May 2009, in which they call for tougher underride guard standards) (pasted below):

The history of Federal rulemaking on truck underride guards:

  • 1953 Interstate Commerce Commission adopts rule requiring rear underride guards on trucks and trailers but sets no strength requirements.
  • 1967 National Highway Safety Bureau (NHSB), predecessor to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), indicates it will develop a standard for truck underride guards.
  • 1969 NHSB indicates it will conduct research on heavy vehicle underride guard configurations to provide data for the preparation of a standard. In the same year the Federal Highway Administration publishes a proposal to require trailers and trucks to have strong rear-end structures extending to within 18 inches of the road surface.
  • 1970 NHSB says it would be “impracticable” for manufacturers to engineer improved underride protectors into new vehicles before 1972. The agency considers an effective date of January 1, 1974 for requiring underride guards with energy-absorbing features as opposed to rigid barriers.
  • 1971 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommends that NHTSA require energy-absorbing underride and override barriers on trucks, buses, and trailers. Later in the same year NHTSA abandons its underride rulemaking, saying it has “no control over the vehicles after they are sold” and “it can only be assumed that certain operators will remove the underride guard.” The Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety (BMCS), predecessor to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, considers a regulatory change that would prohibit alteration of manufacturer-installed equipment. This would nullify the major reason NHTSA cited for abandoning the proposed underride standard.
  • 1972 NTSB urges NHTSA to renew the abandoned underride proposal.
  • 1974 US Secretary of Transportation says deaths in cars that underride trucks would have to quadruple before underride protection would be considered cost beneficial.** 
  • 1977 IIHS testifies before the Consumer Subcommittee of the US Senate Commerce Committee, noting that devices to stop underride have been technologically available for years. IIHS tests demonstrate that a crash at less than 30 mph of a subcompact car into a guard meeting current requirements results in severe underride. IIHS also demonstrates the feasibility of effective underride guards that do not add significant weight to trucks. IIHS petitions NHTSA to initiate rulemaking to establish a rear underride standard. The agency agrees to reassess the need for such a standard and later in the year announces plans to require more effective rear underride protection. BMCS publishes a new but weak proposal regarding underride protection.
  • 1981 NHTSA issues a proposal to require upgraded underride protection.
  • 1986 IIHS study reveals that rear guards designed to prevent cars from underriding trucks appear to be working well on British rigs.
  • 1987 European underride standard is shown to reduce deaths caused by underride crashes.
  • 1996 NHTSA finally issues a new standard, effective 1998.
    IIHS, 2009

** And how many deaths due to underride crashes are underreported? For example, ours was listed on FARS (NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System) as “Passenger Compartment Intrusion Unknown.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has been relentlessly drawing attention to this issue for some time now, including this video:

IIHS Status Reports with articles on underride guards:

  1. This issue featured our story & petition to DOT:

He is familiar with our sorrow.

The other day, when I was reading my Bible (I don’t remember the passage or why it made me think this), the thought struck me that the Father knew the pain of knowing that His Son Jesus would never walk the earth again in the same way.

Oh, yes, He is alive forevermore and being with Him in Paradise to Infinity & Beyond forevermore will be amazing. But it will not ever be the same as it was when Jesus was walking on this earth–God & Man in One.

That thought somehow brought me comfort in knowing that the Father understands my pain in knowing that AnnaLeah and Mary will never walk this earth again with us in the same way.

And then, just this morning, I looked up Andrew Peterson’s song, After the Last Tear Falls, and as he introduced the song, he talked about how God is “familiar with our sorrow.” He sees the brokenness in our world. He cares. And in the midst of all this grief, He has also given us beauty to treasure. And there is Love.

Trip North May 2015 138getting farther away patch of blue

Real pain. Real peace.

Published on Sep 6, 2014
Mary & AnnaLeah loved to laugh and make-believe. These photos tell the story of Mary’s adventure with Bear, the sudden end to their earthly life, the balloons we let go to remember that, though we would not see them anymore here in this life, we will someday joyfully be with them again, and then the balloons we would a year later let go–but which decided to stick around while we tended to the girls’ grave, playing peek-a-boo in the trees. It’s all true.(Photos by Marianne Karth with some photos by The Karths–Sam & Naomi. Amazing Grace sung by their Grandpa Jim Waldron, and Children of the Heavenly Father sung by their sisters, Rebekah & Susanna)

No matter who causes the crash, larger trucks pose larger problems for smaller cars.

No matter who causes the crash, larger trucks pose larger problems for smaller cars. If this concerns you, please call senators on the Appropriations Committee now and ask them to oppose increases in truck size.

From the Truck Safety Coalition:

Urgent Action Needed Now!!

Tell Senators on the Appropriations Committee  

to oppose the Shelby Amendment that would allow bigger, heavier, more dangerous trucks on our roadways

June 24, 2015


The Senate Appropriations Committee is at a crossroads. Will Senators crumple under the weight of giant trucking companies and agree to their laundry list of demands? Or will they put you and your family first and work to improve truck safety?

The Senate Transportation Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2016 contains a provision that allows truckers to drive up to 82 hours per week. There is also a measure in the base bill to further delay FMCSA rulemaking regarding minimum insurance, which hasn’t been increased since 1980. As the bill moves to the full Appropriations committee for a vote, Senator Shelby will be offering an amendment to increase the size of double 28 trailers to double 33 trailers.


We need you to call and email Senators on the committee (list below) as soon as possible and urge them to vote NO on the Shelby Amendment. The committee vote could happen as soon as tomorrow. If it passes in committee, the bill would then go to the full Senate.

The House version of the THUD bill, which passed, includes language to allow double 33s. If this passes in the Senate, the bill will go to the President with this provision in it.

  • From 2009-2013, 432,000 Americans were injured in crashes involving large trucks.
  • Nearly 4,000 people are killed in these crashes every year and the death toll has increased 4 years in a row.
  • Trucking is the deadliest mode of freight transportation, accounting for 78% of fatalities.
  • 96 out of 100 times it’s someone in the car, not the truck, who dies in fatal truck crashes.

Inform your Senator of these facts about the dangers of double 33s:

  • Increasing 28-foot double trailers to 33-foot double trailers results in:
    • A six-foot wider turning radius,
    • a 33% increase in low-speed off-tracking,
    • And an additional stopping distance of 22 feet.
  • Double 33s performed worse than double 28s in avoidance maneuvers.


Stop the Assault on Truck Safety – Vote NO on the Shelby Amendment


Oppose all anti-truck safety provisions


U.S Senate Committee on Appropriations  


Thad Cochran (R-MS) [Chairman] 202-224-5054
Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 202-224-2541
Richard Shelby (R-AL) 202-224-5744
Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 202-224-4944
Susan Collins (R-ME) 202-224-2523
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) 202-224-6665
Lindsey Graham (R-SC) 202-224-5972
Mark Kirk (R-IL) 202-224-2854
Roy Blunt (R-MO) 202-224-5721
John Hoeven (R-ND) 202-224-2551
John Boozman (R-AR) 202-224-4843
Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) 202-224-6472
Bill Cassidy (R-LA) 202-224-5824
James Lankford (R-OK) 202-224-5754
Steve Daines (R-MT) 202-224-2651
DEMOCRATS Office Number
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) [Ranking Member] 202-224-4654
Patrick Leahy (D-VT) 202-224-4242
Patty Murray (D-WA) 202-224-2621
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) 202-224-3841
Dick Durbin (D-IL) 202-224-2152
Jack Reed (D-RI) 202-224-4642
Jon Tester (D-MT) 202-224-2644
Tom Udall (D-NM) 202-224-6621
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) 202-224-2841
Jeff Merkley (D-OR) 202-224-3753
Christopher Coons (D-DE) 202-224-5042
Brian Schatz (D-HI) 202-224-3934
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) 202-224-5653
Chris Murphy (D-CT) 202-224-4041




Samsung Working on a Way to Show Road Ahead With Screen on Back of Semi-Truck

Here’s an innovative approach to safety, –still needs lots of work to make sure that it delivers safety in every way.

“Samsung attaches screen to semi-truck to show the road ahead”

“The front-mounted camera broadcasts its signal to four monitors on the back of the truck.”


Help us pick a name for our non-profit in memory of AnnaLeah & Mary

Rebekah photo of crash

We are excited to let you know that we are hopeful about possible improvements in underride prevention. We are also continuing to be involved in other truck safety issues with the goal of safer roads.

Toward that end, we are in the process of setting up a non-profit organization in memory of AnnaLeah & Mary Karth and, in light of their untimely death due to a truck crash on May 4, 2013, this corporation will seek to carry out the following purposes related to highway safety: charitable, educational, scientific, and testing for public safety.

Now, this is where you come in right now. We need to pick a name for our organization. This is what we have come up with so far:

  • AnnaLeah & Mary Stand Up For Truck Safety
  • A &M for Safe Roads
  • AnnaLeah & Mary for Safe Roads
  • Mary & AnnaLeah for Safe Roads
  • Stand Up For Truck Safety.

The first one is probably too long. And I think that I want to keep it connected to them to help us remember that it is about real people and real lives. But I am open to new ideas.

Please let us know what you think. We are eager to get this process underway to help us be more effective in our efforts.

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If you lost someone unexpectedly, I think you’ll understand.

I don’t really need to write about this. I should just have a stiff upper lip and all that. But there are still so many moments when I am caught unawares and the grief takes over.

Like tonight. . . my grandson was watching a Rhett & Link Youtube video and mentioned something about “Grandma watches them.” Well, I had told him about them–showed him one of their videos a few months ago and got him started watching, I guess.

But then, I started to explain how they had moved from North Carolina to California about. . . and then I stopped to think how long ago it was and I figured it in “Before/After the crash” “when AnnaLeah and Mary were still here” time units, and I realized that it had probably been about two and one-half years ago–the crash being two years ago and Rhett & Link’s move about 6 months before that.

When AnnaLeah and Mary and their brother and I would watch the new episode every week together on the computer in the dining room. And laugh. Seems like just yesterday yet foreverago. And nevermore.

But not anymore. I don’t watch it anymore. I don’t know why. Some things are just too hard.

That’s all. I can’t begin to describe how it feels so wrong. It wasn’t supposed to be like this at all.

gertie 2842Winter photos 2013 083picereeees 136Picture 366

This was possibly the first Rhett & Link Youtube video that AnnaLeah & Mary introduced me to:



Uncovering new information on Trucking Minimum Liability Insurance Rates

After numerous phone calls and emails, I have finally been able to find someone who could give me a rough estimate of the premiums which a trucking company might be able to expect if the minimum liability gets increased from $750,000 to $4.2 million. In fact, two people–unbeknownst to each other–referred me to this man, who is the president of an independent insurance agency.

I spoke with him yesterday and explained to him the kind of information that I was looking for and why I was doing so.  I let him know that I have been trying to verify whether there was any truth to the “early estimates” which I have been reading about and that it was important to me to know whether what truckers and Congress were being told was accurate. Specifically, is it accurate that a current premium of $5,000/year could skyrocket to $20,000/year?

He then described to me the graduated system of premium rates–which I had previously heard of through John Lannen: 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. . . . ” (For more details, go here: )”

After speaking with him, I immediately proceeded to email him and document what I had heard him tell me over the phone. I asked him to verify the accuracy of my description. Here is my email to him and his response to me:

Thank you again for taking the time to speak with me and answer my questions about trucking liability.
Please let me know if this is an accurate representation of your rough estimate of the impact of an increase in liability coverage upon trucking premiums:
1st million: $5,000/truck
2nd million: add $1,200
3rd million: add $900
each additional million: would continue to be a smaller increase
So, in this example, a trucker who currently pays $5,000 (and again, I am confused if this means that this $5,000 is for just his liability portion or his whole insurance bill) would pay something a little more than $7,100–like maybe $7,600.
To clarify: That estimate of a trucker’s premium would be for if the liability coverage was $4.2 million.
Would this be an accurate ROUGH estimate?
His reply to me:

Marianne:   Thanks for your call and again my sincere regrets for your loss.   Yes, this is a very rough and best guess estimate based on what I see and hear. 

Best wishes in your pursuit. 

I also heard back from a trucker whom I have been in conversation with via email and facebook. Tilden Curl got me in contact with his insurance agent, who responded to the above information with his own estimate:

Hello Marianne and Tilden,

 My condolences, Marianne, for your loss. My heart is heavy for you as Tilden spoke of your story and inquiries to me yesterday. Admittedly my thoughts drifted to you & your daughters while I passed a number of tractor/trailers on the freeway just last night. . . 

Due to so many factors the variance of premiums is enormous. We have seen some at $1,800 all the way up to $9,000 annual.

Historically, since the current minimums were mandated back in early 1980s, a good average would be the $5,000 mark. It does tend to flow up and down with the economy, markets, catastrophic events, and such, but a good average is the $5K.

I can only speculate on what the premiums would be if federal mandate were to be elevated to a $1.5MM, $2MM, $3MM or even $4.2MM limits.

The numbers estimated in the other emails seem pretty low to me. I would think closer to:

1.5MM – $6,200 +/- annual

2MM – $7,000 – $7,500

3MM – $7,800 – $8,400

4.2MM – $8,600 – 9,300

Mark D. Johnson

HUB International Transportation Insurance Services, Inc.

Even if we go with the second estimate, $9,300, this is still only an increase of $4,300 from a current $5,000. Compare this to the “early estimate” of $20,000 or more, which is what is being told to truckers and would increase their premium by $15,000/year.

Thus, the estimates I have been given are at least $11,700/year less than what truckers are apparently being told. Big difference.

Furthermore, I am assuming, that Congress has been told that the rates will skyrocket and go up to $20,000. So the question is:  Did Congress vote upon the THUD Appropriations Bill — to take away funding from FMCSA which would allow them to continue the rulemaking on this vital matter (previously authorized by Congress) — based on INACCURATE information?

Read about that here: