Monthly Archives: December 2014

An Untimely Death

Susanna at Duke 107

A gardener planted trees around Duke’s Healing Garden in a particular pattern with a plan in mind. One of the trees apparently met an untimely death. The garden is still very beautiful, but it will always seem somehow to be missing something of inestimable value.

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Good news: Nothing to fear!; Christmas Letters from AnnaLeah & Mary

Minolta DSC5a AnnaLeah Christmas

As I was getting ready for the day, one of my favorite Christmas songs was running through my head, “God Rest, Ye Merry Gentlemen, Let Nothing You Dismay!” ; ;

and this is one of my favorites, “Mary, Did You Know?”:

But what I was looking forward to–after celebrating Christmas together as a family yesterday–was spending some time today reminiscing about past Christmases shared with AnnaLeah and Mary, who will have no new earthly celebrations of their Savior’s birth.

So–for myself, and anyone else who cares to get a glimpse of Christmas with Mary & AnnaLeah–here are links to memories which I posted at this time last year (Thanksgiving through New Year’s):

A Christmas Carol photo 001Minolta DSC

Help Us Design the Best Possible Underride Guard

I sent an email out yesterday to the University of Michigan Injury Center–asking them to consider helping to design an underride guard which would provide the best possible protection.

This morning I decided to put out a wider call for assistance — both in expertise and financial backing — for this worthy lifesaving endeavor. Surely we could put our heads together and make this happen! I’d like to see this done to enhance the efforts of NHTSA to develop an improved rule on underride guards.

Let’s stop talking and take some action! Spread the word.


AnnaLeah writing

IMG_4467May 8, 2014 from Kathryn


“I would like to ask that you consider taking on the goal of developing an underride guard design which will prevent vehicles from riding under trucks in rear-impact collisions to a greater extent than the current federal standards provide protection–thereby preventing horrific injuries and unnecessary deaths.

I am a 1979 Health Behavior/Health Education graduate of the University of Michigan School of Public Health and received your recent email with information about the Research Centers, including the Injury Control Research Center. In addition, I am the mother of nine children and was driving the three youngest from North Carolina to Texas on May 4, 2013, to attend four college graduations and the wedding of their older siblings, when a truck hit us twice spinning us around and sending us backward under the tractor trailer in front of us.

AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13) were in the back seat. AnnaLeah died instantly from mechanical asphyxia and Mary died a few days later from injuries (including severe head trauma, carotid artery dissection, and LeFort fractures of her face) she sustained in the crash. I was in the hospital for almost a week but am totally healed physically, and my 15 year-old son in the front passenger seat had a mild concussion and was released that same day from the Emergency Room. The girls, in the back seat, experienced underride; we did not.

In the days, weeks, and months following that crash, our family discovered many things about truck safety.One of the things which we learned about were underride guards, steel bars on the back of a trailer mandated by federal regulations following the national attention gained by the death of actress Jayne Mansfield due to an underride crash in 1967.

Unfortunately, the specifications have been shown to be inadequate in many circumstances; many of the underride guards on the road today too often fail to prevent underride–whether it be due to the design, installation, or maintenance of the guards. This has been seen both by review of the Large Truck Crash Causation Study and through research done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)–among others.

Following our crash, we initiated an online petition requesting DOT to make improvement in three truck safety areas, including underride guards. After delivering the 11,000+ petitions to DOT in Washington, DC, we met with top administrative officials from FMCSA and NHTSA on May 5, 2014–one year after the crash. We were able to meet for an hour–sharing our concerns and hearing what their plans were relative to our three requests.

After hearing that NHTSA was not able to let us know if they were going to initiate a new rulemaking process on underride guards, my husband Jerry asked several times when we might expect that they would decide whether to go ahead with such a process. Finally, David Friedman, deputy director of NHTSA, replied that we could expect a decision in two months. I then asked him to email me as soon as the decision was made. And he did so–emailing me on July 9, 2014 — almost exactly two months later — to let me know that they had issued a rulemaking to study this issue.

Unfortunately, this is a very lengthy process which is frequently subject to setbacks due to opposition from the trucking industry. In addition, there is controversy about whether the guards could be made “too rigid” and result in unintended consequences due to deceleration forces.

Yet, the IIHS has told us in person that, “It is safer to run into a brick wall than into the back of a truck.” This is due to the fact that if you run into a brick wall with a vehicle equipped with a crush zone, that crush zone is able to go into effect and protect the occupants. However, if a vehicle hits the back of a truck and the underride guard fails, the vehicle goes under the truck so that the passenger compartment is intruded upon and the crush zone (air bags and seat belts) is not allowed to operate as designed.

We have also written letters to trailer manufacturing companies asking them to voluntarily improve their guards–as did Manac, Inc. IIHS has continued to communicate with manufacturers to let them know that they would be glad to test any new designs. They have gotten some response.

The bottom line is that NHTSA is hoping to issue a new rule mid-2015 and whatever they propose, if passed, will likely have an impact on road safety for years to come. It is my hope that there would be cooperative efforts taking place to come up with the best possible protection for travelers so that others will not have to go through what our family has had to and lives will not unnecessarily be abruptly brought to an end.

Please consider how you might be involved in this along with the School of Engineering and whatever other resources could be harnessed. Surely, by working together, we can make a difference.

In memory of AnnaLeah and Mary,

Marianne Karth”

See Underride Research Reports listed by NHTSA :

A Helpful Guide to Understanding the Rear Underride Guard Rulemaking:

The Passion of This Safety Advocate

It gets really tiresome to hear the trucking industry come up with the same statements time after time after time.

Nearly every time I read an article written about our crash, there are the obligatory responses from the trucking industry. Invariably, they try to shift the responsibility off of themselves to make the changes sought after and, instead, bring up some alternative solution to the “problem.”

This can be seen in the latest article by Bloomberg News about our story and underride guards:

“‘The passion that Karth brings to the debate won’t necessarily solve the problem,’ said Sean McNally, a spokesman for the American Trucking Associations, the industry’s largest advocacy group. ‘Instead, regulators will be more effective if they focus on such measures as crash-avoidance technology and such simple steps as education to encourage better driving by both trucks and cars.

“’All crashes are tragic, and as a result discussions about highway safety are often touched by strong emotions,’ McNally said. ‘However, we should not use emotions as the basis for regulations. Regulations need to be grounded on strong research, science and data.’”

What does he think the problem is?! And has he even bothered to look at the strong research, science, and data reported on by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) regarding underride guards? Does he truly think that this is an either/or situation?

He just doesn’t seem to get it. He thinks the passion is simply my deep grief over the loss of my daughters. He doesn’t have a clue that that very real pain is amplified by anger and frustration over the callous attitude and denial of responsibility that too often is expressed by spokespersons of the trucking industry–and which, of course, gets played out in their decisions and actions on matters related to safety.

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Senate Saves Trucking Industry Millions

Apparently the Senate just approved a bill that will “save the trucking industry millions.” Good…maybe they can put some of those savings into safety measures to help save lives.


Underride Guards; Let’s Move Forward In 2015

I heard back tonight from David Friedman, deputy director of the NHTSA. (See previous post for my email to him earlier today. )

This is what he said, “Thank you for reaching out.

“We are heartened to see overall progress, but as Secretary Foxx said today on a call with reporters, ‘32,719 lives were lost on our roads in 2013. And even one is far too many.’

“And as I noted, ‘As we work each day at NHTSA, these are tragic reminders of the importance of our efforts and how we must build on our many successes and continue to work even harder to protect the American public.’

“And yes, fatalities involving large trucks is one of the areas of disappointment because we saw an increase. We are working hard on multiple steps to turn that around, from electronic stability control, speed limiters, vehicle-to-vehicle technology and more. And, as you know, another area we are trying to make progress is on underride guards.”

On the matter of underride guards, he said, “The schedule is for an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on rear impact protection for straight trucks to tentatively move forward around the beginning of the year and a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on rear impact protection for trailers to tentatively move forward around the middle of the year.”

Here is the recent Bloomberg News article on our story & underride guards:

I hope that 2015 will bring vast improvement in preventing ghastly deaths from underride.


Trucking Fatalities Increase for Fourth Year in a Row; Hours of Service Rules Rolled Back

Here I am trying to get ready for Christmas and I cannot keep up with all of the articles and actions related to truck safety. For the sake of time, I will post some links here so that you can check them out in between your holiday festivities.

So I decided to write to NHTSA with my concern about the increase in truck crash fatalities compared to the decline in traffic fatalities overall:


This is just a knee jerk reaction, but I saw your recent report on decline in traffic fatalities. I don’t know the trend in truck crash fatalities since 2004, but I see, from your report, the last three years:

Fatalities in Crashes Involving Large Trucks

2013:   3,964
2012:   3,944
2011:   3,781
I am glad to see that there is an overall decrease in traffic fatalities, however, I don’t see a downward trend in those three years for truck crash fatalities.
2013: AnnaLeah + Mary + 3962 other loved ones.
Thank you for all you do to improve truck safety.

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Battle Over Trucker 34-hour Restart Rule is Over–For Now

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The Senate voted on Saturday evening and passed the Omnibus Bill which included Senator Collins’ rider to rollback trucking Hours of Service rules related to the 34-hour restart rule.

Read more here from the Truck Safety Coalition:

Bloomberg News reports on this issue as well:

A previous post spells out the facts of Senator Collins’ rider:


Truck Crash Moment: A truck driver’s actions forever divided time into Before & After

AnnaLeah and Mary Mary & AnnaLeah Before

IMG_4464Truck Crash Moment

headstoneAnnaleah  & Mary After

Tug of War Over Trucker Hours of Service; It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over

The Truck Safety game 001

YOU CAN HELP in the tug of war in the battle over trucker hours of service regulations.

The Omnibus bill passed the House on Thursday evening by a 219-206 vote. Last night, several truck safety leaders took to the floor of the Senate and spoke about truck driver fatigue, the hours of service (HOS) rule and the dangers of the Collins Rider. Senators Booker and Blumenthal were passionate in their defense of the HOS rule and our families’ right to safety. The night ended with the Senate passing a two-day extension to vote on the bill.

Please join Senators Booker and Blumenthal and let your Senators know that these anti-safety riders are bad for roadway safety and bad for our families! TAKE action now:

Please contact your Senators ASAP and tell them, “We’re tired of Congress putting trucking industry profits ahead of public safety. VOTE NO on the Omnibus Spending Bill!”

You can find the contact information for your Senators here:

OR call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senator’s office.


Before & After Photos