Monthly Archives: August 2015

“Courage, dear heart.”

Susanna gave me this lovely bracelet for my birthday. Such a wonderful word of encouragement for those moments when dark thoughts find their way in to disturb my peace:

Mary loved the Chronicles of Narnia. For many years before she read the books herself, her older brothers and sisters read them out loud to her. And she watched the BBC videos for hours on end.

GWMemorial-147 GWMemorial-149

Isn't she beautiful

Minolta DSC

I just found this video which someone made  of Lucy and Aslan to the song Wrapped in Your Arms. It makes me think of AnnaLeah and Mary. I am so glad that they knew the comfort of His loving arms. “Courage, dear heart.”


Beach photos by The Karths (Naomi & Sam)

Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association brochure of services

This OOIDA brochure describes their benefits and services. I picked it up at a truck stop while on a road trip. Note the truck driver insurance & minimum liability.

OOIDA brochure

Celebrating Life. Figuring out how old they would have been–year after year. Minus 40, then minus 4.

When I was taking a walk this morning and wishing that AnnaLeah and Mary could have been with me to celebrate my 60th birthday, I realized that it won’t be as hard as I thought to figure out each year how old they would have been.

As their siblings get older and leave AnnaLeah and Mary behind in their dust, I was worried that as I age I would have to work hard to calculate their would-have-been ages. It will be easy though. AnnaLeah was born when I was 40 (she liked to use her age to figure out how old I was!). And Mary was 4 years younger than her. So I simply have to take my age, subtract 40 for AnnaLeah and then 4 more for Mary.

I would have been 62 when Mary turned 18. My baby. Whom I was counting on to take care of me when I got older.  (The rest of them will have to take up the slack.) She would have liked the walk I took in the woods today and the frisbee golf course.

Walking stick 01012 Picture 724Driftwood 0018 Picture 657

Trip North 2015 Wisconsin 542family portrait Susanna's dance recital 002baby AnnaLeah and family1bb at the hospital to see MaryI am thankful for my family and the wonderful memories I will always have.



You can do it! Ignore your phone until you can safely answer it.

You can do it! Ignore your phone until you can safely answer it. Mary recorded herself for my ringtone. She wanted to be famous. While she might not have died from distracted driving (we don’t know what made the truck driver crash into our car), I think that she would have liked to be known for helping others to drive more safely.

(Photos taken from various stages of Mary’s life.)

If more people drove stick shift cars, would they be more focused on driving & less distracted?

Interesting thought: I just read an article which made me think,  If more people drove stick shift cars, would they be more focused on driving & less distracted?

Making the transmission automatic took a step out of the driving process, and in exchange, drivers lost touch with the reality of what driving is: shoving a 4,000 lb brick through space with consequences. Driving while doing something else isn’t like letting go of your handlebars while riding a bike. It’s like operating a missile without paying attention to where it’s going.

And while advances in car technology have made vehicles safer, those same advances have also made cars bubbles of infotainment with texting, calls and Facebook at hand. In 2013, 424,000 people were injured in “distracted driving accidents”, up from 421,000 people the year before, and 10% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the accident.

People who “grew up in the automotive industry or have this passion for vehicles – those are the guys that are driving manuals,” says Petrovski. “Everyone else is more in tune with what’s happening on their iPhones. They’re texting and driving. That’s pretty tough to do on a manual.”


It is this “conspiracy of silence” surrounding death as it relates to crash fatalities that I would like to shatter.

Some time ago, I wrote a lengthy post. Very lengthy. With the thought in mind that some might not have read to the end, I am reposting it in a different fashion: the end comes first:

“I will be eternally grateful that Mary and AnnaLeah were ready when death knocked at their door on a day when they did not suspect it. I am comforted by a letter we found after their funeral which Mary had written to herself (meant to be read ten years later) a few weeks before our crash. One of the things she said–and which I will never forget–was that she hoped that she was living every day as if it were her last.

The Bible says that, Death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.(Ecclesiastes 7:2) Why is it that Too Often we do not do so? Why do we live and think and act as if we were invincible and invulnerable?

According to Rod Lensch, ‘One good explanation is that death is like the law of gravity. We recognize its reality but rarely think about it. People generally tend to walk into life with hope and confidence but back into death with uncertainty and fear. So the conspiracy of silence surrounding death continues unabated.’

And, it is this “conspiracy of silence” surrounding death as it relates to crash fatalities that I would like to shatter. I would like to shine a spotlight on these countless unnecessary and preventable deaths and call for change–for safety to become much more than a word that is flippantly tossed around without any real and lasting impact.

Let’s be bold and decisive and circumspectly do the sensible and compassionate thing. Let’s do our part–each one of us–to protect those around us from all harm and danger that they might love and laugh and live their life fully.

This morning, as I was taking a shower, I began singing Amy Grant’s song, Thy Word Is A Lamp Unto My Feet

Normally, that song is an encouragement to me. But as I got to the phrase, ‘Please be near me to the end,’ I ‘lost it’ as the memory returned of my girls’ abrupt and premature end to their lives. At one and the same time, it was a comfort that He was indeed near them ‘to the end’ and a great sorrow that their ending had to come in such a way and at such a time–so unnecessarily for me to see and bear in my own lifetime, and for them to miss out on so much more of life, not to mention all the lives now bereft of the love and gifts they so freely shared.

It is at such moments that I cry out, ‘May there be an end to Too Often, Too Little, Too Late. And may it come quickly.’”

25 AnnaLeah Jesus Loves Me 052Rebekah photo of crash

Who are no more with photo

You may read the rest of that post here:

“The Trucks Are Killing Us”: Interesting Op-Ed by a former exec. at the American Trucking Associations

Just read this Op-Ed in today’s New York Times:

Face-to-face with our congressman, George Holding, to discuss truck safety concerns

photo with George Holding

Earlier this month, I met with Congressman George Holding’s Constituent Services Representative, Doug Wegman, in Sharpsburg, North Carolina. I was the only one at the “Town Hall meeting” and was able to share the story of our truck crash and some of our concerns about truck safety. It seemed like a productive meeting.

I had emailed Congressman Holding’s office in June asking for an opportunity to meet with him while he was in recess in North Carolina. That never came about until I emailed my contact again early this week and repeated my request. I was then asked if I could meet with him in Raleigh on Friday, August 21, at 11:00 a.m.

Actually, that worked out very well (couldn’t have planned it better myself) because I was dropping our son off at the airport to go back to college in Texas that morning and then proceeded to the meeting with Holding. Doug Wegman was also there along with Holding’s District Director, Alice McCall.

I shared with Congressman Holding that I had grown up as a Republican and was quite surprised after our crash to find out that, in general, the Republican party line related to truck safety legislation consistently appeared to be pro-trucking industry and anti-safety. I am puzzled why there cannot be bipartisan solutions to these issues.

His response — a typical one — was that Republicans generally oppose government involvement and regulation. The problem I have with that is the reality which I have painfully discovered that “safety is not an accident” — it doesn’t just happen by itself. Without rules and regulations and enforcement and justice and requirements, chaos and injury and death are more likely to occur.

At least I have not seen a better alternative. Have you?

However, thankfully, I came away from the meeting feeling that it was productive — a thought echoed by another son who attended with me. We had the opportunity to raise several truck safety concerns, including driver fatigue (electronic logging devices and hours of service), underride guards, and the minimum liability insurance for truckers.

We concentrated on the minimum insurance issue — which has not been raised — for 30 years and therefore certainly has not kept up with inflation. (Is that any surprise?!) The current level, $750,000, set in in the 1980s — adjusted for inflation — would now be more like $3.2 million for  the medical CPI adjusted level according to p. 11 from this document: .

And the statistical value of life is $9.2 millionVSL Guidance-2013-2 DOT value of life

I had a binder put together to leave with Congressman Holding. It had numerous articles about the insurance issue, including what the opposition (the trucking industry) has been saying about premiums skyrocketing if the minimum liability is raised — from $5,000 to $20,000. I showed him what I had found out from a couple of insurance companies which indicates that it would be more likely to go up to maybe $9,000. A bit of a difference.

This kind of potentially inaccurate and misleading information has been publicly disseminated and has influenced many truckers (most vociferously by representatives of OOIDA, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which by the way happens to sell insurance to truckers, and legislators. In fact, I showed him the House Roll Call in which he had voted to freeze the funding for FMCSA to study this issue — even though Congress had previously authorized them to do so.

I was gratified that Holding took the time to look over the roll call and examine the 10 Republicans who had supported the need to allow FMCSA to proceed with rulemaking on this issue. He indicated that he intends to make some contacts for us, asked Doug to write down some of the names and the people both in the Senate and House with whom he is willing to connect us so that we can continue to shed light on this concern and ensure that the truth of the matter is uncovered.

I was also appreciative of the District Director’s input. When we discussed our pursuit of underride research to support the improvement of underride guards, Alice McCall mentioned that they could help with some contacts at universities, among other things.

In addition, she asked me how to pronounce AnnaLeah’s name (An-na-Le-ah) and said that it was beautiful. I told her that AnnaLeah loved her name and its uniqueness–although she had planned on publishing any written works under a pen name. I had showed them Mary’s braids and said that I was thankful that the nurse saved them and gave them to us. I had also brought along a shoulder bag which AnnaLeah had knit from a pattern in her head.

It reminded me of the many triggers which daily life brings of the loss we bear; as we drove to Raleigh I had seen a car on the side of the road. There was something sitting on top of the trunk of the car and for some reason that reminded me of our car after the crash — demolished with broken bodies inside. And it took my breath away once more to think of AnnaLeah’s life instantly snatched away. And the joy and creativity that were abruptly cut short.

Alice also mentioned that she has several daughters. And, I had noted that Congressman Holding has 3 young daughters and a son himself. It is helpful to know that people understand that this is not just a matter of corporate profit but a life and death matter which could happen to anyone at any time.

Interesting articles, letters, and documents on the minimum insurance topic:

All in all, we felt that we were heard and are hopeful that Congressman Holding is likely to make decisions and take actions in the future to positively affect road safety as a result of the time which we spent with him.

p.s. Just read an Op-Ed (by a former executive of the American Trucking Associations) in today’s New York Times

p.p.s. Just scanned this OOIDA brochure–found at a truck stop while we were on a road trip.

OOIDA brochure


p.p.p.s. Mary’s braids: 49 Mary's braids 016

p.p.p.p.s. AnnaLeah knitting one of her many creations. AnnaLeah at Lake Michigan 11

Jimmy Carter credited with decision which positively impacted road safety in U.S–saving many lives.

In a comment on a recent article about former President Jimmy Carter and his health, Louis Lombardo thanked him for his impact on road safety:

Comment by Louis V. Lombardo, Bethesda, MD 6 hours ago

“Among the great things President Carter did was to appoint Joan Claybrook to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). As a result several hundred thousand lives have been saved in the U.S.A. by vehicle safety technologies and policies.

This was accomplished despite the facts that President Reagan 1, appointed a coal industry lobbyist to replace Claybrook, 2, rescinded the airbag regulations, and 3, cut NHTSA by 33% i.e., 300 safety workers.


The pdf to which Lombardo provided a link, Lives Saved by Vehicle Safety Technologies and Associated Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, 1960 to 2012 Passenger Cars and LTVs (January 2015), is a lengthy analysis of the Lives Saved by various safety standards and technologies over the years. (FMVSS = Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards).

Along with 24 other safety standards–reviewed for their effectiveness in reducing fatalities, injuries, and crashes for passenger cars and LTVs–on p. 214-216, there is a discussion of Underride Guards, although there is no reference to research which shows that stronger guards can be manufactured–giving the potential for increasing the number of Lives Saved by improving FMVSS 223 & 224 (Rear Impact Guards/Protection on Heavy Trailers):

“FMVSS No. 223, ‘Rear impact guards for heavy trailers’ FMVSS No. 224, ‘Rear impact protection for heavy trailers’

These two standards regulate one safety technology for heavy trailers with GVWR over 10,000 pounds that has been partially evaluated by NHTSA and that is primarily designed to protect the occupants of cars and LTVs that collide with the rear of the trailers:

Underride guards for heavy trailers

The bodies of heavy trailers usually ride fairly high above the ground. The front ends of LTVs and especially passenger cars are relatively low. When the front of a car or LTV hits the rear of a trailer, there is a risk that the car’s hood will underride the trailer, with little structural engagement. The trailer can intrude into the passenger compartment of the car or LTV, with great danger to the occupants. The underride guard is attached to the rear of the trailer and extends below the body of the trailer. It is designed to engage the hood of the car or LTV and prevent underride. Ideally, the underride guard should extend low enough to engage even small cars, be wide enough to catch impacts near the corners of the trailer, and be strong enough to not fold or break out of the way upon impact.

History: NHTSA issued FMVSS Nos. 223 and 224 in January 1996. FMVSS No. 223 specifies the height, width, length, and strength requirements for rear impact guards for trailers and semitrailers; FMVSS No. 224 establishes requirements for the installation of rear-impact guards on trailers and semi-trailers with GVWR of 10,000 pounds or more manufactured on or after January 24, 1998. FMVSS Nos. 223 and 224 do not apply to pole trailers, pulpwood trailers, lowchassis vehicles, special purpose vehicles, “wheels back” vehicles, or temporary living quarters – generally because these vehicles ride closer to the ground than van-type trailers or because the “wheels back” feature prevents underride from occurring, since striking vehicles contact those wheels and do not underride the back of the vehicle.513

However, the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA) had already issued a voluntary Recommended Practice RP 92-94 in April 1994 that included all the essential elements of the subsequent NHTSA standards except for the energy absorption requirement. Subsequently, Transport Canada issued CMVSS No. 223, “Rear impact guards,” effective in 2005, which not only encompasses FMVSS Nos. 223 and 224 but also sets somewhat higher strength requirements than those FMVSS.514 Before 1998, trailers and semi-trailers were Federally regulated by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) that incorporated specifications for rear impact guards developed by the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1952.515 The ICC guards were substantially narrower and smaller than those required by the current NHTSA standard and the TTMA recommended practice. The ICC guards were not required to meet strength tests.

In other words, there are five generations of underride guards: (1) The original state of no guards at all, which had ended by 1952; (2) The narrow ICC/FMCSR guard from 1952 to approximately 1994; (3) A transition circa 1994 to the TTMA guard which has the dimensions of current guards but not necessarily their strength; (4) Certification to the strength requirements of FMVSS Nos.   223 and 224 in 1998, although some earlier guards might have met those requirements; and (5) Certification to even greater strength requirements of CMVSS No. 223 in 2005; although not mandatory in the United States, current trailers are designed to the Canadian requirements to allow operation throughout North America.

Expected benefits: Passenger compartment intrusion increases fatality and injury risk in frontal impacts. Successful underride guards would reduce the likelihood of intrusion when cars or LTVs impact the rear of heavy trailers, without otherwise changing the distribution of delta v in those crashes. That should result in fewer deaths and serious injuries. The underride guards would have little or no effect in crashes where the car or LTV contacts the sides of the trailer or the truck that is pulling the trailer.

Fatality and serious-injury reduction: NHTSA’s evaluation, published in 2010, compares occupant fatalities in cars and LTVs when these vehicles impact the rear of heavy trailers to fatalities in a control group of crashes where the cars impact some other part of the trailer or impact the tractor.516 Two almost insuperable impediments to evaluation precluded statistically meaningful results: (1) FARS and most other databases available to NHTSA do not record the MY or VIN of trailers, leaving no clue as to the design of their underride guards; (2) The gradual evolution of standards for underride guards does not allow a simple before-after or all-versus-nothing comparison. As of 2010, Florida was the only State crash file available to NHTSA that recorded the trailers’ MY and VIN. The analysis is based on Florida data from CY 1989 to 2006; of course, the number of fatality cases in a single State is limited. The two categories of trailers considered are MY 1998 and later, which would include guards certified to FMVSS and/or CMVSS Nos. 223 and 224; and MY 1980 to 1993, before the TTMA voluntary standard, which would probably be mostly the narrow ICC/FMCSR guards. The technique is a multidimensional contingency-table analysis of car/LTV occupants’ odds of survival in rear impacts versus other impacts, in crashes with MY 1998+ versus MY 1980-to-1993 trailers – using a SAS procedure called CATMOD to estimate if the newer guards have reduced risk in rear impacts relative to the other crashes and also to control for the CY of the crash (because crash distributions in Florida have changed over time). The analysis estimates a 27-percent reduction in rear-impact fatalities with the newer trailers, but the estimate falls short of statistical significance, due to the limited data (chi-square = 0.88, where 3.84 is needed for significance at the two-sided .05 level). A corresponding analysis of the risk of fatalities and serious injuries (categories K and A in the Florida data) shows 6.5 percent lower risk with the newer guards, likewise not statistically significant.

Although the observed estimates are positive, the limited data and lack of statistical significance do not permit a conclusion that the newer guards have reduced fatalities or serious injuries. The model to compute lives saved in Part 2 of this report will not attribute any fatality reduction for car or LTV occupants to improved underride guards for heavy trailers. In a 2009 NHTSA analysis of 122 NASS-CDS fatality cases in frontal impacts, despite seat belt use and air bags, of cars and LTVs of MY 2000 or later, 12 of the 122 fatalities involve rear underride of a heavy trailer (although this data does not describe the type of underride guard on the trailer, which may have been built before FMVSS Nos. 223 and 224, or how the guard performed in the crash). 517

513 49 CFR, Parts 571.223 and 571.224; Federal Register 61 (January 24, 1996): 2004.



516 Allen, K. (2010, October). The effectiveness of underride guards for heavy trailers. (Report No. DOT HS 811 375, pp. 16-22). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Available at

517 Bean et al. (2009, September), pp. 33-39″

See numerous other posts and articles on the issue of underride guards:

Thoughts on making a Public Comment on rulemaking for Single Unit Truck underride protection (Ends September 21)

DOT is studying whether or not they should require “single unit (or straight)” trucks to be safer, i.e., be built so that–when a vehicle rear-ends them–the smaller vehicle does not slide underneath the larger truck. And they are asking people to let them know what they think about this.

What might you say about the proposed rulemaking for underride protection on these trucks? (Examples of SUTs are dump trucks, garbage haulers, concrete mixers, tank trucks, trash trucks, and local delivery trucks.)

What I would suggest is that you point out the fact that people die every year when their vehicle hits the back of single unit trucks so that the truck actually enters the passenger vehicle in the area where people are sitting. And, if manufacturing companies were required to provide adequate underride protection on these trucks, many of those deaths could be prevented.

Sure, it will cost some money to provide that protection. And that cost will have to be passed on to someone–whether it be the manufacturing company, the company which purchases the truck, the consumer of the trucking industry services, etc. Are we willing to bear that cost as a society, or would we rather keep our costs as low as possible–at the price of human life?

Good news: The 11,000+ AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety Petition signers have been added to the Public Comments for the ANPRM Underride Protection for Single Unit Trucks.

To see all of the signatures/comments from the Petition, go to this link:!docketBrowser;rpp=25;po=0;D=NHTSA-2015-0070

At that site, click on Karth Family/Care 2 Petition. Then click on Supporting Documents. There is a PDF and an XLS spreadsheet. The PDF can be read better by magnifying the chart.

You are allowed to add your own comments to the ANPRM–even if you signed the Petition. You can do so by clicking the COMMENT NOW button on that website. Please take the time to express your thoughts on this vital issue.

I am grateful for the countless people across the earth who care about these life and death matters and are willing to stand up and ask for safer roads.
Please note: Public Comments Period ends September 21, 2015.
Rebekah photo of crash