Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.

The story continues

39 Comments

Some of you know I was in Washington DC last week, but do you know why? Long term readers might remember the story of my dad who was killed December 23rd of 2004 while slowed in traffic when he was hit from behind by a semi driven by a sleepy driver. I and other members of my family have been working on truck safety issues ever since.

Looking for change from our political leaders.

Last weekend the Truck Safety Coalition held our biannual Sorrow to Strength conference, where survivors and families of victims from across the country met, provided emotional support to each other, and became educated on the issues.

Saturday and Sunday we spent listening to each other and preparing for the meetings to come.

Working the halls of Congress.

Monday and Tuesday we spread out in small groups across Capitol Hill, talking to staff and members of Congress about what happened to us, and the solutions we want implemented in order to save lives.

It is hard but necessary work.

Some of us gathering before our first meetings.

Almost 5,600 people died in commercial truck crashes in 2021. That’s a 13% increase in fatalities over 2020. And over 146,000 people are injured every single year.

Obviously there is much work still to be done. To bring it down to a more human scale, let me tell you the stories of two women, each bearing the unimaginable consequences of the trucking industry’s drive for profits.

Sometimes the sheer size of government can make a person feel unimportant.

Alexandra is a young woman married only two years when she and her husband moved from Idaho to Atlanta where she planned to attend law school. Last November her husband was sitting at a red light when his vehicle was hit from behind by a semi. He is now paralyzed from the neck down and unable to do anything for himself. Alexandra and her mother-in-law have been taking turns sitting with him and advocating for his care in several hospitals and rehab facilities.

But our stories ARE important. My sister and me before her meeting.

She’s a strong woman, Alexandra. She talks about the crash, about the care she provides for her husband, about their impending move back to Idaho to be closer to family. But when she talks about fighting with insurance carriers and the almost $5 million in medical debts she and her husband now owe, she begins to cry.

We have to tell the world.

The minimum amount of liability insurance a carrier has to have is $750,000. That was set in 1980 and has never been increased over the more than 40 years since. Though there’s probably no amount of required insurance that would cover all of the medical costs for Alexandra and her husband, certainly they deserve to have their expenses covered. He deserves to get the best care and therapy available, and he won’t get that if they are on Medicaid.

He was sitting at a red light.

We all sit at red lights.

It’s OUR government, intended to work for all of us.

And then there’s Elise. Her four children were visiting their father in another state, driving to a relative’s house to enjoy summer fun in a backyard pool on a hot July day in 2020. Their dad slowed down entering a construction zone. The semi behind was driven by a man who was high on meth and fentanyl. He hit the family’s car going over 70 mph. It was pushed into the semi in front of them and then into the guard rail where it burst into flame. The children’s dad was pulled out of the car, badly burned. But no one could see the four children in the smoke and flames.

All four of Elise’s children died in that crash.

When I reflect on my life Dad’s death was pivotal.

Elise told her story over and over during our two days on the Hill. She calls herself a mother with no children. I witnessed her dissolve into tears, then take a deep breath and continue on to ask for automatic emergency brakes on all trucks. She does this, with courage, in memory of her children. The least we can do to listen.

More families, more grief, more sharing, more requests for change.

Starting the rule making process for automatic emergency brakes on trucks was part of the last infrastructure bill, but only for the biggest trucks, class 7 and 8. Smaller commercial trucks were not included, and we all know those trucks are buzzing around our neighborhoods every day.

Elise’s children were slowed in a construction zone. We all slow down in construction zones.

It takes a lot of walking, a lot of talking, a lot of LISTENING to make change.

We can listen to these stories and hundreds, thousands of similar stories and send positive thoughts and prayers. That’s nice. But what these two women really want is change. It’s what all of us attending the conference want, change, so that fewer people die and get injured in preventable commercial truck crashes.

But change is hard.

There are bills in the House and Senate ( For example, HR 2687 for raising insurance minimums, HR 1622/S 605 for underride protection on trucks) to make change revolving around several of our issues. But this session of Congress is wrapping up and in the new year we will have to start asking for bills to be reintroduced.

You can help by calling your Senator or House Representative when things heat up again. And you can count on me to let you know all about it.

Some members of Congress are listening. This is Rep. Bustos from Illinois.

Dad’s, and all these stories continue, forever in our hearts.

Miss you, dad. Watch over us as we push forward, OK?

Author: dawnkinster

I'm a long time banker having worked in banks since the age of 17. I took a break when I turned 50 and went back to school. I graduated right when the economy took a turn for the worst and after a year of library work found myself unemployed. I was lucky that my previous bank employer wanted me back. So here I am again, a long time banker. Change is hard.

39 thoughts on “The story continues

  1. Thanks for going to DC to fight the good fight. So many awful stories…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Darn, I wish I knew how you can keep pushing on. I just can’t.

    I sure appreciate you all doing this, though. And those new stories are just gut-wrenching.

    As you know, my family has never been the same since the crash that killed Chuck and Teri. I hope someday I can muster up what it takes to join you all in DC again.

    God bless all you guys.

    Michelle

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I just don’t get it: they mandate safer playgrounds with softer material for kids to land in. They take out monkey bars deemed dangerous, but no one bats an eye to the thousands of truckers careening down the highways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s probably no one other than playground manufacturers to fight the other side. And they might not have the deep pockets to donate to political campaigns. Which is how this all shakes out in the end.

      Like

  4. They say you have to make a lot of noise to see a change. I think you are all very determined and someday they changes will happen. I am grateful you have the courage to do this. I see the semis driving to fast, breaking to late and not stopping at stop signs. I see them passing cars squeezing in between cars and always trying to cut someone off. In Texas on the freeways they are supposed to be in the right hand lane they never are.

    Like

    • Yes…it’s a long slow process. But there are things happening. Slowly. Small movements. But movement none the less. I don’t think everything we want will happen in my lifetime…but unfortunately there are young families being effected too and they will have to carry on the fight.

      Like

  5. Yes, so many awful stories! What good work you are doing. Best of luck. And so sorry for your loss.

    Like

  6. Goosebumps happen, as I read the stories you share. Sometimes I think too many members of our Congress have their heads in the wrong places – I keep hoping the next crop will open their minds, their ears, and their hearts and do what is needed. Thank you for your hard work.

    Like

    • We always have hope too. And sometimes we DO find a new Senator or Rep that is on the side of safety. But it’s far and few between. Meanwhile we have to rely on those that have helped us in the past…there are some really great people working on the Hill.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. These tragic stories moved me to tears. Thank you for pushing on and continuing to flight so that more people do not have to experience these senseless losses.

    Like

  8. Gosh, what sad stories. And yes, but for the grace of God, there go any one of us. Thank you, Dawn, for hanging in there and doing the work necessary to bring about the changes needed in that industry.

    Like

  9. Glad woo can do the talking as that is not Dad’s forte.

    Appreciate the offer.

    Dog Speed

    Like

  10. Makes me angry, makes me hurt, makes me copy/paste some of your post and send it to my Senators and Reps. And I tell them of how I witnessed a family be killed here in WA State when a semi ran over them when the driver fell asleep. These are NOT isolated incidents … they are way too common. Take care of yourself, Dawn, take deep breaths, and keep on. Thank you.

    Like

  11. Such heartbreaking stories. Stories that should not have to be told.
    Nothing like something hitting close to home to get us involved. Good in you, Dawn.
    And seriously, why is it so hard to change this situation?

    Like

  12. Now I understand the story behind the title of your blog. Wow … such courage you all to face. Best wishes for change.

    Like

  13. Wow. Thanks for sharing these stories. So sad that there are so many with a story to tell.

    The 1980 minimum seems like a no brainer that they need to change!

    Please keep us posted on new bills. I will keep writing and calling.

    Thank you for advocacy. I know it must be exhausting and discouraging at times.

    Like

    • Yes, being a safety advocate seems like a simple thing. Everyone wants safety…right? Everyone SAYS they want safety, but the wheels of government more so slowly. And there are such deep candidate contribution pockets in industry…who doesn’t want us to make anything more expensive or more difficult, or different than the way things have always been. We don’t have deep pockets. It costs us as individuals a LOT to go to DC and stay there for 4 or 5 days and talk to people on the Hill. Lots of cost in time and in emotion and pain. The ATA has paid lobbyists to do the work we do, and they’re there all the time. It’s a big job to make change happen.

      Like

  14. Thank you for the work you do in Washington. Just my opinion…term limits…we have to get rid of the good old boys that have been there too long and are afraid to make changes. I know it will never happen but it should.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I cry all over again when I read these stories and see photos of your dad. I’ve been distracted this year with the move and all. 2023 I will try to focus again on the wider world.

    Like

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