I am the survivor of a terrible truck crash. I am the mom of two daughters who did not survive. The difference? Their part of the car went under the truck; mine did not.
In the aftermath, I found out that the rear underride guard could have been made stronger to withstand the crash so that AnnaLeah and Mary might — like me — have been survivors of a terrible truck crash. I learned that, if effective underride protection was installed on trucks, we could save hundreds of people who die every year when a truck enters their occupant space. So now, I am a mom on a mission to make truck crashes more survivable.
How did it come about? In October 2012, Jerry and I moved to North Carolina with the three youngest of our nine children. Four of the nine were going to college in Texas. When they all came home for Christmas break, we got the news that our oldest daughter, Rebekah, had just gotten engaged. We planned a big trip to Texas in May for the celebration of a wedding, four college graduations, and two family birthdays (AnnaLeah turning 18 & Vanessa turning 4).
Mary baked a seven-layer engagement cake to surprise Rebekah when she arrived for the holiday. Rebekah asked me to sew her wedding dress and we shopped for a pattern and material. In the ensuing months, Mary (13) served as a model for her sister’s wedding dress, and AnnaLeah sewed a little bride’s dress for a surprise birthday present for Vanessa.
On May 4, 2013, we packed our Crown Vic and headed for Texas. But the trip did not go as planned and it turned out to be AnnaLeah’s and Mary’s last journey they would make on this earth. We came upon slowed traffic on I-20 in Georgia (from a fatal crash two miles ahead, two hours earlier). We slowed down, but a truck driver did not — hitting our car and sending it into a spin so that the car went backward into the tractor-trailer ahead of us. The rear underride guard failed to withstand the crash and the back of the car went under the trailer.
AnnaLeah and Mary were in the backseat. AnnaLeah died at the scene and Mary a few days later from her very serious injuries.
In the four years following that day, we have been working hard to turn tragedy into advocacy — including the drafting of the STOP Underrides! Bill soon to be introduced in the U.S. Congress to mandate the installation of technology to end these preventable tragedies.
More memories of Roya, AnnaLeah, & Mary — our precious ones, gone too soon: The Naming of an Underride Bill; Out of the Mouths of Babes
Controversy surrounds the cost/benefit analysis undergone to determine whether a safety solution — proven to save lives — is cost effective. In other words, does the total cost to the industry required to implement the solution
the supposed number of lives saved (and by some formula the number of injuries prevented)
equal a $ figure
less than or equal to the Value of a Statistical Life (VSL) at that point in time [currently $9.6 million]?
If the cost is greater than that VSL, the safety countermeasure is deemed too costly and the rulemaking is ditched. In the case of underride protection, no mandate is thereafter issued to the industry requiring them to install equipment which could save lives.
Here is an example. Single Unit Trucks (SUTs) are not currently required to have rear underride guards which meet the same standard as for tractor-trailers. We petitioned NHTSA in May 2014 to require them. In response, NHTSA issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in July 2015. Their preliminary regulatory cost benefit analysis came to this conclusion (p. 26):
Guidance from the U.S. Department of Transportation identifies $9.1 million as the value of a statistical life (VSL) to be used for Department of Transportation analyses assessing the benefits of preventing fatalities for the base year of 2012. Per this guidance, VSL in 2014 is $9.2 million.
While not directly comparable, the preliminary estimates for rear impact guards on SUTs
(minimum of $106.7 million per equivalent lives saved) is a strong indicator that these systems will not be cost effective (current VSL $9.2 million).
Yet, here is an April 2017 fatality in Florida from an underride crash involving a Single Unit Truck: Crash kills 2 on I-75 in Bonita Springs
Apparently these lives were not worth saving.
Fairly soon after our crash, after a year or so of taking part in truck safety advocacy efforts, I became aware of the stranglehold which the cost/benefit analysis had on the likelihood of being able to get proven safety solutions actually required. That’s when I launched our Vision Zero Petition which got 20,000+ signatures. That’s when I also found that President Clinton’s Executive Order 12866 was what spelled out the specifications for that regulatory analysis for which the Office of Management & Budget had become the gatekeeper for safety regulations.
Many people made comments on the ANPRM for underride guards on Single Unit Trucks, as well as the NPRM for improved rear underride guards on tractor-trailers to the point that costs were overstated and benefits (saved lives) were understated. In fact, Lois Durso and I recently shared with many people on The Hill, as well as DOT, the proof that our two underride crashes were not even accurately listed as underride crashes with PCI (Passenger Compartment Intrusion) in the NHTSA FARS reports of truck crash fatalities. How many other underride deaths might also be inaccurately reported?
We are convinced that underride deaths are grossly undercounted. In fact, we would go so far as to say that every one of the 4,000 (on average) truck crash deaths each year should be considered an underride death unless otherwise proven (compared to the 200 to 600 annual deaths currently attributed to underride). After all, when a passenger vehicle collides with a large truck, it will be with some portion of that truck. If that part of the truck does not have any/adequate underride protection, then some degree of underride is, of course, likely to occur — which means that the truck is likely to intrude into the passenger occupant space. PCI then occurs with death and/or catastrophic injuries.
It is not necessarily the truck crash per se that causes the horrific deaths and injuries but rather the underride of the truck into the passenger occupant space. But this is not the current thinking in FARS data collection and regulatory analysis.
But even if we found a better way to report these deaths and every single one was included in the count, could someone find a loophole in the formula and still declare that comprehensive underride protection was not cost-effective and these lives were not worth saving?
When we were in DC a few weeks ago and met with DOT, I had a glimmer of hope because we were told that there had been recent discussions of the fact that the achievement of Zero Deaths in the airline industry was in stark contrast to the 35,000 annual deaths on the roadways. There was apparently realization that something had to be changed in how DOT is addressing this major public health problem — including the consideration of studying “near misses.” After all, DOT has publicly stated that their strategic plan is to move Toward Zero Deaths. I say, Let’s hold them to it!
Might we see a shift away from cost/benefit analysis that devalues human life to a cost-effectiveness approach that considers what is the most effective way (with the least cost) to save every life possible? What would it take to bring that about? Would President Trump be willing to sign an Executive Order authorizing Vision Zero Rulemaking?
If our truck crash had been less complicated — if I had rear-ended the tractor-trailer ahead of us instead of another truck hitting us and causing us to go backward into the tractor-trailer ahead of us — I would not be a truck crash survivor. I would have experienced Death by Underride and, quite likely — being in the back seat — AnnaLeah and Mary would have survived.
Mary would have lived to celebrate her 18th birthday today. She would have become an adult. She would have had the chance to live out her dreams and hopes. She would have continued to fill the world with her joie de vivre.
That is why I am unwilling to compromise and why I will continue to insist on underride protection that is comprehensive and effective to the fullest extent technologically possible in concert with the crashworthiness of cars. If that had been so on May 4, 2013, then AnnaLeah and I, along with our whole family, would have been able to wish Mary a very happy 18th birthday.
This Memorial Day, I want us to remember the countless loved ones from this country who have died in wars — including the Car Safety Wars.
From that review: “Lemov reports that more than 3.5 million Americans have been killed and more than 300 million injured in motor vehicle accidents.” “More than all the combat deaths suffered in all our wars” (President Lyndon Johnson).
Remembering AnnaLeah & Mary Karth and their grandpa, James Waldron, a Navy Seabee in WWII, at Highland View Cemetery
My daughter-in-law posted the question on Facebook today, “What books do you think all kids should read?” That made me think, of course, about the Book Reading Lists which AnnaLeah had created. Incomplete and unfinished.
She had a 600-book collection herself — mostly used — and would have acquired more, I’m sure. She loved to give books as gifts to her niece and nephew and read to them often.
Here are some of her lists:
The Braswell Memorial Library in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where we were living when the crash occurred, donated a book in the girls’ names. AnnaLeah , a booklover, would have appreciated that gesture.
Happy Birthday, AnnaLeah!
Here I go again having to pick some memories of AnnaLeah to share on her birthday. She would have been 22 today. How can that be? What would she have done today? How might she have changed?
For one thing, she probably wouldn’t want the spotlight to be shining on her. But she isn’t here to protest and remembering her — preserving the memory of her life and self — is all I can do for her now.
AnnaLeah Karth, May 15, 1995 – May 4, 2013
Some things I want you to know about AnnaLeah. . .
- My Favorite Memories of AnnaLeah (well, some of them)
- Time & A Grief Observed: Reflections from CS Lewis & AnnaLeah KarthToday is the day that AnnaLeah was born 20 years ago. Though she only lived 17 years (almost 18), she filled her time with imaginative & colorful activities and endeavors. Time well-spent.
AnnaLeah had a personal collection of over 600 books–most of which she had read. And she loved to create and share imaginative worlds with words. A wordsmith. . . Here is a poem she wrote when she was 12:
- AnnaLeah’s Very-Thorough 30-Category Booklist
- Grace Girls Appreciated AnnaLeah For over three years, AnnaLeah took care of the babies and preschoolers of moms who attended a morning Bible Study group called Grace Girls. She had a gift with young children. She enjoyed them and they loved her. The moms appreciated AnnaLeah and let her know so. Photos show a Christmas card she received from them, as well as a farewell card to her when we were moving away from Midland, along with lots of photos of AnnaLeah with little ones.
- Remembering AnnaLeah Two Years After the Crash :Two years ago, May 4, 2013, AnnaLeah went on her last journey on this earth. Little did she know it at the time.She had worked so hard before we set out for Texas to go to her sister Rebekah’s wedding and college graduations of four older siblings. We were going to be moving into a new home on the Fourth of July. So, she had packed up most of her possessions in preparation for sharing a bedroom with her older sister, Susanna. She had sewn a lovely dress for her niece’s birthday. I was so proud of her.
Then, it all came to an end.
I wanted to share this memorial photo slideshow which her older brother Isaac and sister Susanna put together two weeks later to share at the girls’ funeral. We remember AnnaLeah and the day she was born, May 15, 1995; she would have turned 20 today. Forever 17.
- I love the glimpse which this video gives of AnnaLeah and the delight she had in giving books to her niece. . .
This “short film” was a little play which AnnaLeah wrote, starring herself and her sister Mary. Makes me laugh and smile and feel like they’re still here. . .
AnnaLeah Builds Her Hobbit Orphanage
AnnaLeah and Levi joined other youth from Grace Lutheran in Midland, Texas, in a servant event. Under the direction of DCE Eaton they thought that they were going to build a storage shed at Camp Lone Star in 2010. AnnaLeah knew that it was really an orphanage for hobbits! See them hard at work in this fast-action short video…
It is encouraging that a lot of positive things are happening in recent months, especially related to underride protection. In order to keep that information readily accessible but not keep it at the top of the site as sticky posts, I am going to keep a running list of links to recent, significant posts:
- The Second Underride Roundtable was held at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, Virginia, on August 29, 2017. Read media reports of this successful gathering of various stakeholders to work together to improve comprehensive underride protection: Media Coverage of the Second Underride Roundtable
- Senator Gillibrand Questions FHWA Nominee Paul Trombino about underride.
- WUSA9 recently began an extensive investigation into truck underride. The segments which have already aired are listed here. They plan to shed light on the problem until it is adequately addressed in this country.
- Introduction by Eric Flack: A danger on the highway. . .
- Part 1 aired on July 13, “Mothers fight for tougher tractor trailer laws after daughters die in underride crashes”
- Part 2 aired on July 14, “Cost of a Life,”
- Part 3 aired on Tuesday, July 18, “Truck trailer rear guard rules have huge holes, safety experts say”
- July 18, “Big rigs, Big risks: Are rear truck guards enough?”
- Special Response to Comments on Social Media, July 19, “Rear underride accidents explained”
- Friday, July 21: “Powerful Senator joins calls for stronger semi-trailer underride guard laws”
- Friday, July 28: “Why don’t tractor trailers have side guards?“
- Wednesday, August 9: “Moms try to save lives but get caught in red tape on Capitol Hill”
- Thursday, August 10: “Big rigs, big risks: Congressional response“
- October 9, Lawmaker first to publicly back truck underride bill written by grieving moms
- See all of the videos here: WUSA9 Underride Series Sheds Light on Deadly Truck Underride Tragedies & Solutions
Just How Far Have We Come In The 50 Years Since Jayne Mansfield’s Death By Truck Underride?June 29 marked the 50th anniversary of Jayne Mansfield’s death by underride. The world knew in 1967 — if it didn’t know it before — about the terrible geometric mismatch between a car and a truck which allowed a car to ride under a truck upon collision.In those 50 years, how many technological problems have we solved? And yet why have we been unable to solve the problem of truck underride and stem the tide of preventable, horrific, and senseless underride tragedies? . . . NOTE: There are two posts almost exactly alike because of a technical glitch. I posted the first one and it couldn’t be shared correctly on facebook. So I posted the second one. Still a problem. So I got my computer geek consultant to work on the problem and, with a little (or a lot) of hard work, dedication, & creativity, the problem is now solved. See, what we can do if we put our mind to it!
- Becoming educated about underride was not a direction I had planned on going with my life and time. But I have gained a great deal of knowledge related to the fact that AnnaLeah’s and Mary’s deaths (and Roya’s, too, along with countless other individual loved ones) might have been prevented had adequate underride protection been on the truck, into which our sturdy Crown Vic crashed — along with the fact that many more countless, unknown individuals will die unless this country takes decisive action.This information, along with my unresolved grief due to the frustration of knowing that years have gone by without effective protection, fuels my efforts to work collaboratively to bring about widespread and significant change. It is now my aim to equip everyone with the same information — without the accompanying unwanted grief.
- Truck Underride 101: Overview of Contents
- Truck Underride 101: I. When Will We Tackle Truck Underride?
- Truck Underride 101: II. Why Comprehensive Underride Protection?
- Truck Underride 101: Part III. Cost Benefit Analysis, Underride Rulemaking, and Vision Zero (including Underride Statistics)
- Truck Underride 101: Part IV Win/Win
- Truck Underride 101: Part V. Bipartisan Discussion of Legislative Strategy
Has FMCSA Done Due Diligence To Appropriately Address Trucking Minimum Liability Insurance Question?After a truck crash killed our daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13) on May 4, 2013, we discovered that there were many problems with truck safety, including inadequate trucking liability insurance. In 1980, Congress set the level of liability insurance for trucking companies at a MINIMUM of $750,000. If that were adjusted for inflation, it would be $2,225,643 in 2017. Yet, DOT has not once raised that level in 37 years — thereby jeopardizing the safety of the traveling public.
In fact, on June 5, 2017, the FMCSA withdrew the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on the Appropriateness of the Current Financial Responsibility and Security Requirements for Motor Carriers, Brokers, and Freight Forwarders, which was intended to raise that minimum. The history of that rulemaking is summarized below. . .
Sign a Petition Asking for Immediate Action: Protect Vulnerable Travelers: Demand Immediate Increase in Trucking Liability Insurance
- Hard-to-watch Video Footage of IIHS Side Underride Crash Testing, Watch the video footage of this historic IIHS side underride crash testing at 35 mph on March 30 and 31, 2017 — with and without a side guard. It speaks for itself. . .
- IIHS Proves That Side Underride Crashes Are Deadly But Preventable: Seeing Is Believing, On March 30, Jerry and I witnessed a crash test at 35 mph of a car into the side of a trailer — with an AngelWing side guard installed — at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, Virginia. The guard was successful in stopping the car from riding under the trailer, i.e., passenger occupants would have survived.The next day, another car was crashed at 35 mph into the side of a trailer — with a side skirt but no side guard. The car went under the trailer. Occupants would not have survived. . .
- Sign our Side Guard Petition here to let our government & trucking industry leaders know that you want them to act NOW to SAVE LIVES by putting side guards on large trucks.
- How You Can Help Us Get Comprehensive Underride Protection On Trucks, I know that I can’t be the only person in this country (or the planet for that matter) who would like to see trucks made safer to drive around. So, for anyone else who would like to help get comprehensive underride protection on trucks in the U.S., here are some ideas. . .
- SAVE THE DATE for the Second Underride Roundtable: Tuesday, August 29, 2017 at IIHS SAVE THE DATE for the Second Underride Roundtable: Tuesday, August 29, 2017: We will continue to discuss how to bring about the BEST POSSIBLE UNDERRIDE PROTECTION. IIHS will once again co-host this event, with the Truck Safety Coalition and AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety, at their Vehicle Research Center. . .
- Question for the ATA: Is it necessary to choose EITHER crash avoidance OR occupant protection — not BOTH?, After the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released their news about side underride crash testing, I began searching online for media reports on the results of their dynamic crash testing of a collision into the side of a trailer with and without a guard.Among other things, I found — in at least one article — explanations from the IIHS and a reaction from the American Trucking Associations (ATA). . .
- 2 Moms, Sick & Tired of Waiting, Draft Truck Underride Legislation, So, what did you do today? If someone were to ask me that question, I would have to admit that I spent hours emailing legislators in Washington, D.C. — asking them to sponsor and support the Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017, otherwise known as RAM CUP Act of 2017.My partner in the process was Lois Durso, a mom who lost her 26 year-old daughter, Roya Sadigh, 12 years ago to a side underride crash. Still to this day, side guards are not required on the sides of large trucks — even though there were 1,534 reported side underride deaths from 1994-2014 in the U.S. . .
- Why COMPREHENSIVE Underride Protection Legislation?, Why, you might ask, would we write a piece of legislation calling for a comprehensive underride protection rule? Why not have separate bills for side underride and rear underride and front underride and Single Unit Trucks (SUTs), et cetera?I am convinced of the importance of this strategy and want to share some of my thoughts here about the Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act. RAM CUP: A DIFFERENT STRATEGY TO ACHIEVE UNDERRIDE PROTECTION. . .
- Side Underride Problem & Solutions Featured on The Today Show, Ronan Farrow investigated the side underride problem and here is his report on The Today Show, February 7, 2017. . .
- How can we possibly justify allowing Death by Underride to continue when solutions exist to prevent it?, As I allow myself to remember the joy and laughter and love and creativity and grumpiness and irritability and silliness of my daughters, AnnaLeah and Mary, I also remember why I am working tirelessly to bring an end to Death by Underride — which snatched AnnaLeah from this earthly life on May 4, 2013, and Mary on May 8, 2013. I was in that horrific truck crash four years ago today. I survived but they did not because of Death by Underride. . .
- Mandates take burden off manufacturers. Crash tests in labs better than crash tests occurring in real world., Lou Lombardo has written a thought-provoking opinion piece, Creating a Demand for Crash Testing (CTTI, September 2011). It holds great value in confirming the need for comprehensive underride protection legislation to be introduced and passed in a timely manner. . .
- They fought the good fight, they finished the race. . .
- Every Day’s A Holiday With Mary; Joyful Memories of Mary
- Amazing Grace Goodbye, AnnaLeah & Mary, With Love From Grandpa
- Truck Industry Leaders: “Clarity is probably the biggest need we have so we can plan accordingly.”
- AnnaLeah Karth. May 15, 1995 – May 4, 2013. Death by Underride.
- Car Dragged By Semi Due To Defective Truck Design
- If people die from riding under Single Unit Trucks, why aren’t they required to have underride protection?
- When Will We Tackle Underride? – The Hidden Dangers in Trucks (Trucks.com, August 10, 2016)When people learned of the recent fatal crash in Florida of a Tesla Model S running in its Autopilot mode, many started questioning the safety of autonomous driving features in the newest cars.While this is a legitimate topic of debate, for now autonomous driving presents little threat to those on the road. It comes on just a handful of expensive luxury models, and there’s only a small chance that the car driving next to you will have a robot at the controls.However, the tragic Tesla crash does highlight a real and present highway danger — cars sliding underneath large trucks when vehicles collide. Regardless of who was at fault in the Tesla crash, the driver might have lived if the truck had been required to have side guards that would have prevented the electric sports sedan from wedging underneath the trailer.I know just how dangerous collisions like this can be. My youngest daughters, AnnaLeah and Mary, died in 2013 in a truck rear underride crash.
It would be hard to think of anything but joy when I remember Mary.
Gremlins in the Basement: A short film about a little girl who has lost something and the gremlins that don’t want to give it back. Ever wonder what happens to those things that you just can’t find? Maybe the gremlins know. Starring Mary Lydia Karth
AnnaLeah and Mary heard their Grandpa Waldron sing “Amazing Grace” many times throughout their lives. They sang along countless time themselves as he played one of the many dulcimers he had made.
And they knew their heavenly Father’s amazing grace. That thought holds comfort in this time of remembrance. But it broke my heart that I could not tell them goodbye.
Mary and AnnaLeah traveled to see their grandpa buried close by where we would bury them not quite two years later. And there we sang “Amazing Grace” once more, as we bade our fare thee well.
Because in our great sorrow we also have great hope for the everlasting joy yet to come, so then we carry on with boldness and strength to tackle the great challenges which lay before us.