This last week, I have had several memories of AnnaLeah and Mary take me by surprise with their intensity.
I just now found out that a friend, Billie Mills, passed away in Midland, Texas. I had written her personal and family history up into a book. Hearing about her brought back memories of the ways in which Mary and AnnaLeah had assisted me in the process.
AnnaLeah had suggested the self-publishing company which I used and even the name of my company, Family Jam Jars. They had both done extra chores while I worked on the book and listened to my re-telling of funny stories which I had heard from Billie. Mary went with me when I delivered the newly-published book to Billie on August 23, 2012–the day we were moving away from Texas. Mary used her camera to take pictures of Billie and I.
Earlier in the week, for some reason, I was reminded of the times we had been house hunting here in our new hometown (when we were renting). One house in particular, which we considered buying, had a sun room which we talked about turning into a bedroom for Mary and the dog we were going to get for her (Jim Bob). She had grandiose plans of taking the dog for walks past a nearby mansion which she imagined to be the house of a millionaire with a son of marriageable age to whom she would introduce herself.
Along that line, Mary had great fun imagining her future wedding which she would have at a water park and she and her groom would go down a huge water slide after saying their vows!
Just yesterday, I had a hard moment as I was thinking about some company who will be coming to our house today. They are another home school family from Illinois (heading to Seoul, Korea to be missionaries) with whom one of our family members has become friends. We have never met them but are looking forward to a fun afternoon/evening.
As I was thinking about it, I was gripped with weeping as I imagined how Mary and AnnaLeah might have enjoyed meeting them–with two of the family members being around their ages (what they would have been anyway today). In fact, one of them was actually born on the exact same day that AnnaLeah was — May 15, 1995 — and it takes my breath away when I think how AnnaLeah probably would have enjoyed meeting and getting to know someone born on her birthday.
So what does a person do with the anger and frustration which inevitably surface in the aftermath of a truck/car crash fatality (or case of serious life-altering injuries)?
That’s what I would like to know because I have experienced it and have observed others — in similar situations — dealing with it as well. And it is not your normal grief (if anything can be called that). Because, in addition to the loss one has experienced, one also often discovers that perhaps the loss was unnecessary — but nothing (or too little or too late) was done to prevent it. Imagine your reaction to that situation.
Then too often one might discover that, not only was nothing done in the past that could have prevented one’s loss, but, on top of that, there continues to be nothing tangible done to prevent future crash fatalities and serious injuries. What then? How would you deal with the feelings upon that realization?!
Indeed, despite decades of safety advocacy efforts to draw attention to the problem of traffic crash fatalities, too little too late is being done to move us toward zero crash deaths and serious injuries.
When I saw a Tweet the other day quoting Senator Chris Murphy as saying that survivors of the Orlando mass shooting experienced a “second layer of grief” “when they realize that those who expressed sympathy won’t take action,” I could relate to it.
And besides which, it turns into not just a matter of struggling with trying to forgive but an intense conviction that there is a good chance that wrongdoing was involved. Wrongdoing for which there is apparently no genuine accountability or liability. Because if there were, then wouldn’t we see change?
Just yesterday, I read a facebook post by a man who had lost his wife in a truck crash and whose son became permanently disabled from that same crash. Most days, the dad is upbeat and handling the hardship of his new life with grace. But at that moment, it seemed like he was experiencing the straw that broke the camel’s back. He confessed that, at that moment, he was feeling anger towards and hatred for the truck driver responsible for the crash.
The truth is that, probably in most truck crashes (and other traffic-related crashes), there usually are multiple factors which have led to the initial collision as well as the final outcome. And the sad fact is that, too often, the tragedy could have been avoided.
Are we doing enough, as a nation, to work on solutions to those things which could be prevented? I don’t think so and I have been calling for our leaders to adopt a National Vision Zero Goal, to set up a National Vision Zero Task Force, to adopt Vision Zero rulemaking policies, and to appoint a National Traffic Safety Ombudsman.
The opposition to the requirement and manufacture of the safest possible underride protection on trucks is an example of something which could have been taken care of a long time ago but instead is a problem for which there has not been a truly effective solution–in fact it seems to have been deliberately opposed or at least not made a priority to get to the bottom of and resolve.
A few days ago, I went on a walk in the woods and shared my thoughts spontaneously on this matter:
Do these situations make it harder to arrive at the forgiveness discussed by one writer? Forgiveness is one thing. But when there is no tangible change, and my button is repeatedly pushed, then, of course, frustration and therefore anger wells up over and over again. And that certainly is not healthy–not for the victim’s family and not for those whose actions contributed to the deaths.
Now I am struggling with this question for myself: Can my anger at the injustice of criminal negligence (as well as the continued inadequate resolution of countless Traffic Safety Issues) ever be fully resolved if the negligence is not acknowledged, punished, or made right?
Is there anyone really watching over the big picture of safe driving–the complex combination of driver knowledge/behavior and vehicle technology? Here is some food for thought from Care for Crash Victims’ Lou Lombardo:
Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:
Nader’s work has resulted in the saving of an estimated 3.5 million lives over the past 50 years.
I have a friend whose family was shattered by a car/train crash many years ago. After the crash, the municipality took care of the dangerous crossing. Just today, another family was shattered in another state by a car/train crash at a crossing where there have been 6 “accidents” in the last 30 years. They have talked about making this crossing safer for $230,000. But they have not yet done so.
A National Vision Zero Goal facilitated by a National Traffic Safety Ombudsman just might hasten America along and save countless lives — which will be inevitably lost if we refuse to take a united, intentional, aggressive, not-willing-to-dawdle approach to reducing preventable crash deaths!
Get some useful tips for driving safely around large trucks on the road from Andy Young, CDL holder and truck crash attorney, who was moderator of the panel discussion at the Underride Roundtable and facilitated discussion at our follow-up meeting on June 24:
This year, I am putting together another request for underride design proposals. This time, I would like to be a little bit more specific and put out a call for research and data to put to rest, once and for all, the controversy over underride guard rigidity/strength and the potential for unintended injuries from too rigid guards. I would like to see it result in data which could lead to design of the best possible underride protection and practical solutions for underride guards to incorporate energy absorption components where appropriate.
Beyond that, because the crashworthiness of passenger vehicles could change over time, I would hope that the information compiled from past research and/or new research completed in the coming year would provide practical means for updating underride prevention technology in the future.
I hope to submit an abstract by June 30, 2016 to be considered for the presentation of compiled research and data on these issues at the First International Roadside Safety Conference in San Francisco in June 2017, as well as at future Underride Roundtables and made available to the engineering and trailer manufacturing community.
instead of like this:
Note: At the Knights of the Underride Roundtable on June 24, 2016, we briefly discussed the decades-old controversy of “too rigid guards” causing unintended injuries, deceleration forces, need for energy absorption, etc.
Yesterday, I recorded my thoughts about this confusing issue. I hope some will take the time to listen. In any case, expressing it was helpful to me as a survivor of an underride crash which killed my two daughters:
PLEASE NOTE: If you sign the petition, be sure to go to your email. We the People will send you an email which will say this in the subject line: “Almost done! Verify your Petitions.WhiteHouse.gov account.” Follow the instructions to verify your signature.
On June 24, 2016, people from diverse backgrounds met around a table at the IIHS offices in Arlington, Virginia, to continue the good work begun at the Underride Roundtable on May 5, 2016. This time, we rolled up our sleeves and hammered out a written recommendation for better rear underride guard requirements for tractor-trailers. To save lives.
First of all, we heard a presentation from Raphael Grzebieta on the approach which Australia is taking to improve rear underride protection in their country.
The basic idea is that they are not concerning themselves with spelling out detailed design specifications (e.g., what loads a guard needs to be able to withstand) but simply outline the performance evaluation criteria of: prevention of underride with the result of a survivable crash (with no injury criteria but instead relying on the crashworthiness of the passenger vehicle). While we might not yet be ready for that radical of an approach, we were given some food for thought.
(If anyone else had a different perception or would like to clarify my simplified explanation, please let me know and I can edit this description.)
Then, we had some useful discussion about the goals for improving underride protection, as well as some of the challenges which trailer manufacturers face. We benefited from some heated discussion which helped us to clarify terms and priorities. (See the bottom of the post for the Meeting Binder which I handed out for discussion purposes.)
After a break for lunch, we got down to work and spent some time brainstorming. As suggestions were tossed out for discussion, Andy Young typed up the suggestions , which were projected onto a screen for us to analyze and refine. Andy worked us hard and enabled us to reach a consensus and common ground upon which we could all agree.
What we came away with was a very good draft of recommendations for updated rear underride guard regulations for tractor-trailers. We also decided upon a tangible process for moving forward:
David Zuby will send the list of recommendations to me.
I will mail them out to the meeting participants.
They will make suggestions for revision, if appropriate.
We will come to a consensus for the creation of a final document to which we are all willing to sign our names.
Then I will distribute that document to the entire list of participants of the original May 5 Underride Roundtable — giving them the opportunity to review it and decide if they want to sign it as well.
We will then send the document to NHTSA via the Federal Register as a Public Comment on the Underride Rulemaking from the Coalition of Stakeholders Interested in Underride Prevention (CSIUP). [Tentative title for our group for lack of a better name to which we can refer]
We agreed to wait for future meetings to address other topics of importance* in the drive for underride prevention. These include such vital things as protection at higher speeds than 35 mph, Single Unit Trucks (which currently have inadequate or non-existent underride protection), side guards, front override, parking and conspicuity issues, and retrofitting.
Please see this entrepreneurial effort to save lives. Inventors Paul and David Smart are experienced fire rescue workers who have patented a system to provide fire fighters with information in real time to help extricate crash victims faster and safer. This is a technology that is needed all across the U.S.A. today.
“I’m writing to announce the launch of our Kickstarter page today. If we’re successful, we’ll raise 15K to have Chop Dawg Studios (www.chopdawg.com) create the demonstration prototype of our program that potential investors have been asking to see.
This will be a HUGE step towards helping us to help rescuers do their jobs and save more lives of crash victims. Here is the page:
Would you please share, forward, visit, post on FB, Twitter, etc. to help us get the word out? We need all the help we can get to raise 15K July 23rd. If we fall short, we get nothing. If we meet our goal, we could have our tech in recuers’ hands by the end of the year.”
If auto companies had hearts, they would be racing to help develop and deploy this technology.