Why on earth am I asking for another government-funded worker — a National Traffic Safety Ombudsman? And whatever would that person do anyway?
It would be a lot easier for you to understand if you were in my shoes. But I don’t want you to be in my shoes — continuing to grapple with the grief of losing a loved one in a preventable traffic crash. So I will try to describe, as briefly and clearly as I can, what I have in mind with this Traffic Safety Ombudsman Petition.
Basically, in the aftermath of losing two daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13), due to a truck underride crash on May 4, 2013, we have discovered that millions have died in traffic crashes since the first one in 1898, that there are many reasons for that, and that trying to do something about those reasons is very difficult, time-consuming, and resisted. Meanwhile, while solutions are being delayed, people continue to die — often needlessly, because something could have been done to prevent their death, but was not.
There is often a political tug-of-war over these issues. An Office of National Traffic Safety Ombudsman (TSO) would be established to function outside of the political realm — untainted by the pressures of powerful lobbyists. Instead, the TSO would work with the existing government agencies, industry representatives, researchers, and safety advocates — listening to traffic safety concerns and speaking forth on behalf of matters of importance to traffic safety.
Currently, Traffic Safety is not even listed on whitehouse.gov as an Issue. This has got to change. It needs to become a national priority and we need an Advocate to listen to traffic safety concerns which are raised (in fact, actively seeking to make sure that they come to the surface) and then identify solutions and inform those who can do something about them.
Now I can do many things as an individual to raise national awareness about traffic safety issues. But my ability to motivate and facilitate change is way too limited. I don’t truly have the ear of leaders essential to the process. In fact, although my family and I have taken two petitions to Washington — with the agreement of thousands of people, they can too easily brush me away like a pesky fly. We need someone with the authority to demand an audience with the powers that be.
I have not heard one word from Washington, D.C., about our 20,000 Vision Zero Petition signatures. That’s a problem. Either they think they are already doing what that Petition requests (with which I would disagree) OR they don’t think that it is important enough to do anything about. That is something which we should all rise up about.
In fact, how I envision it is that the Traffic Safety Ombudsman would be the person to implement the requests of the Vision Zero Petition. Small businesses have a National Ombudsman. Why not do the same for the victims of tragic, preventable traffic crashes?
What are we waiting for?! This would be the perfect complement to our Vision Zero Petition requests for a National Vision Zero Goal, a White House Vision Zero Task Force, and a Vision Zero Executive Order. In fact, the Traffic Safety Ombuds(man) (Advocate) would fit in extremely well with this plan and, now that I think about it, is actually probably the missing piece of the puzzle for making Vision Zero a viable goal:
- The Traffic Safety Ombuds would develop, refine, and monitor the pursuit of a National Vision Zero Goal.
- The Traffic Safety Ombuds would oversee the White House Vision Zero Task Force.
- The Traffic Safety Ombuds would be the watchdog to make sure that the Vision Zero Executive Order and Vision Zero rulemaking were carried out appropriately on behalf of travelers on the road.
Makes sense to me. Because, really, who would be given the responsibility and authority to oversee these things otherwise?!
When I was reading my Bible this morning, I read a verse about Jesus ascending to sit at the right hand of the Father. What is He doing there? Advocating on our behalf, interceding for us, speaking to His Father and ours about our needs. Hmmmm, kind of like I would expect a Traffic Safety Ombudsman would do — only not in heavenly places (or not only) but getting the ear of those who can move heaven & earth to make our roads safer!
I don’t think that you need to worry about this costing the taxpayers a lot of money or creating an enormous new agency. Look at what our family has already done voluntarily and with the help of other concerned parties with our petitions and the Underride Roundtable, which we helped to organize, and the Tired Trucker Roundtable, which I have proposed. We have pulled together in communication and actual sit-down-together meetings diverse groups, such as government regulators, law enforcement, trucking industry, safety advocates, researchers, media, and victims. Organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Truck Safety Coalition (with their non-governmental funds), along with citizen contributions, have helped to finance such events — without emptying the pockets of taxpayers.
The Traffic Safety Ombudsman would not be replacing the safety functions of the government or watchdog efforts of safety advocacy organizations. Rather, the TSO would be working with them and getting them to work together — with the goal of SAVING LIVES as their primary and, in fact, sole responsibility. And there would still be the need to raise national awareness and involve citizens in advocacy efforts through social media and my recommended national network of Vision Zero/Traffic Safety Community Action Groups.
With a relatively-small budget for travel, office rental, equipment & supplies, and salary & benefits, even a one-person Office of National Traffic Safety Ombudsman — with endless possibilities for internships — could accomplish a lot. A lot more than I would be able to do here in my home in Rocky Mount, North Carolina — a retired home school mom, truck crash survivor, and broken-hearted mother.
Note: And I am not the only one who thinks so! Among others. . .
- Bill Bronrott, Media, government & public affairs for healthy, safe & sustainable communities. Past US DOT Appointee, Maryland State Legislator, Congressional Press Secretary, sent out a Tweet last night about the petition:
— Bill Bronrott (@bronrott) July 6, 2016
- Roger Lanctot, Associate Director in the Global Automotive Practice at Strategy Analytics, Driverless Policy Making, “I was reading an impassioned letter to the President by Marianne Karth on the issue this morning – impassioned because Karth lost two daughters to a motor vehicle accident involving a truck lacking under-ride protection. . .Karth binds her thoughts into a five-point appeal: ‘Would you (President Obama), in fact, make Traffic Safety a national priority–placing it on the list of important issues listed on whitehouse.gov and then do something about it, e.g., Appoint a Traffic Safety Ombudsman who would oversee all of this and be an Advocate for vulnerable road users (which includes us all) —untainted by political pressures?'”
- Lou Lombardo, Care for Crash Victims, Let’s help the Karth family: Only when enough of us do our part will we be able to end vehicle violence. Write about her story of struggle. See and encourage others to sign her petition to do simple doable actions by the President at: http://annaleahmary.com/2016/
07/victims-of-underride- collision-demand-vision-zero- and-an-independent-traffic- safety-ombudsman/
- Lloyd Alter, treehugger.com, ” Marianne Karth is right- there has to be someone looking out for victims, there has to be more balance.”
- Well that just goes to show you: A U.S. Traffic Safety Ombudsman is definitely needed!
- Neil Arason, Author of ‘No Accident’, and believer in vision zero and the need to re-think everything about our roads, told me this after signing the petition, “I have signed the petition, and have just Tweeted about it. Having a traffic safety ombudsman is such a great idea!“
— Neil Arason (@neilarason) July 5, 2016
SIGN & SHARE the TRAFFIC SAFETY OMBUDSMAN Petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/384/321/600/end-preventable-crash-fatalities-appoint-a-national-traffic-safety-ombudsman/.
Too many shattered worlds. Too many broken hearts.