William H. Badger. Feb 4, 1929 – December 23, 2004.
Eighteen years without you is a long time. And no time.
You should have had more time.
Sometimes it feels like we’ve made no progress at all. And sometimes I know we’ve at least stopped some of the unsafe propositions, maybe even made a few inroads toward safety.
You should have had more time, and we can’t fix that for you or any of the thousands of families trying to move forward with their own grief. Their own new normal. I hate that term.
Eighteen years ago this morning. Last night, laying sleeplessly in bed, I imagined you getting up so very early in the dark morning, making sure the heat was turned down, the water turned off, and the doors locked, putting your suitcase into the trunk of your car and heading toward the airport.
You never got there. You never got to come home.
It’s not right, not for you or for us. Not for the 5,000 plus families that faced similar facts in 2021, or the as yet unnumbered thousands from 2022. And the hundreds of thousands of injured every single year.
We have to keep working, even though we’re all tired.
How many of us are lucky? I feel like I am, lucky to be born into the family I was, to be given the opportunities I’ve had. To never wonder where my next meal would come from or where I’d sleep for the night. Nothing really bad ever happened to me or my family.
And when the unimaginable happened and Dad was killed by a sleepy semi driver we were not equipped to know what to do. We found the Truck Safety Coalition who helped us make the initial decisions, and who provided us education later on when we started to ask all the whys about what had happened.
That was almost eighteen years ago. Today I sit on the board and we’re working hard to provide the same services to other new families. Sadly there are always new families.
We’re struggling, as always, to raise funds to support our work. We don’t have pictures of cute elderly folks who need transportation to appointments or the grocery store. No sweet puppies that need adopting, no kids looking for someone to hang out with. No, all we’ve got are the faces of those we’ve lost and those injured in crashes with semi trucks.
Last year over 5,000 were killed and over 145,000 injured in crashes with large trucks. Stop a minute and think about that. How many people does the football stadium of your favorite team seat? What if all of those people were run over by a truck? Plus everyone out in the parking lot? Wouldn’t the nation take notice?
But people are dying and getting injured one by one, two by two, on highways and little back roads, spread out across the country. It doesn’t usually make the news. Even if it does the next news story buries it and no one remembers. Except the families.
We have so much work to do. So a week from tomorrow, on Giving Tuesday I’ll be asking for your help again. Over on Facebook I’ll be posting my request for donations. It’s easy to donate there, click a button, send us a few dollars. Last year you all astounded me and doubled my goal. This year I guess I should just start where I left off.
I hope you can help, every dollar counts. Everysingle dollar.
If you’re not into Facebook, you can donate directly through our website, trucksafety.org. There’s a green donate button, and an address if you’d rather send a check. And it’s there, on the website, that you can read some of the thousands of stories. It will break your heart, so have tissues ready.
If you don’t have time to go over to the website, here’ just a few of the thousands of faces of those directly affected by large truck crashes. Dad is 3 rows down, four pictures from the left, right next to Anna who is paralyzed from and lost her best friend in a semitruck crash. I know the names and stories of all these people and so many more. It makes me mad and sad and frustrated because it doesn’t have to be this way.
I thank you all for your support, both emotional and financial, over these many years. They say it gets easier. It doesn’t. It just gets different.
Help us help another family get through their new different. Change is hard.
It’s now a proven fact that walking quickly on a treadmill, especially at an incline while wearing a mask, is not fun. I had a stress test this morning, as if life in times of covid isn’t already stressful enough.
While the tech was gathering “before” ultrasound images of my heart I gazed up at the ceiling wondering what a broken heart looked like. And if he’d be able to see that mine surely was.
Seventeen years ago this morning my dad was killed, while slowed in traffic, by a semitruck driver who fell asleep at the wheel. Dad never had a chance.
So today I wonder about a lot of things. Whether our driver ever thinks about the man he killed. Whether today’s date stirs his heart like it stirs the hearts of my family. Whether he measures time in before and afters like we do.
And I think a lot about the recent sentence of the truck driver in Colorado who killed four people and injured several more in a firey crash in 2019. Colorado laws required that sentences for each of the charges he was convicted of be served consequently, and that’s why his sentence was 110 years.
Is 110 years too long? I don’t know. What is the right number of years for killing a person, intentionally or not? The Colorado driver made several bad decisions on his way to that devastating crash, the most important being him passing the truck runoff lane on his way to rear ending all those cars.
The driver that killed my dad made several bad decisions too, the most important being continuing to drive tired and not stopping at the state visitor center only 12 miles prior to the crash site. But in Georgia his bad decisions resulted in a misdemeanor and the max time he could serve in jail was 30 days. Is 30 days too short a time to pay for negligence that results in the death of someone else?
On one hand I’m sorry the Colorado driver got such a heavy sentence because it’s garnering sympathy for the driver. He says he wishes he had died instead of all those people. I thought for a moment that he felt remorse. And then he added, he wishes he had died ‘because this is no life.” His statement reflects his own fear and frustration and loss rather than any feeling of responsibility. Lost in all of the hyperbole are the injured, the dead, and their families. The real victims of this crash.
On the other hand, I am grateful that the Colorado driver got such a heavy sentence, because it’s bringing attention to these types of crashes which occur all too frequently. Time and time again I hear the same story. Someone was stopped in traffic. A truck doesn’t stop, for any number of reasons. People die horrible deaths. Truck drivers die too. Some people survive to live lives that are never the same.
Everybody involved lives in a world of before and after.
Earlier this week I attended a Zoom meeting with several volunteers of the Truck Safety Coalition. We’re trying to get through the holidays by leaning on each other. My heart, toughened by seventeen years of scarring, broke again as I listened to several new stories.
One young man feels lost because his fiancé was killed on her way to work a few months ago. They had a whole life planned — he was helping her get through nursing school, after which she would work and help him get through pilot school. Now he sits in their apartment stunned as he trys to come to terms of his ‘after.’
And another young person has been married only eighteen months when her husband was hit by a semi last month. He’s in an ICU now, can’t move, is on a ventilator and communicates by blinking his eyes. She had just started law school. Now she sits with him, advocating for his care in a hospital short staffed and overrun with covid. It’s not clear yet what their ‘after’ will look like.
That night our group talked a little bit about the Colorado driver and his sentence. The widow of one of the victims of that crash is new to our organization. She doesn’t want his sentence commuted. She says the people pushing for that have not sat through three weeks of testimoney. That they don’t know the whole truth.
She says that she, and all of us, were handed life sentences, too, the day that marked our own before and afters.
It’s a complicated issue and will take more pondering on my part before I know exactly where I stand. Meanwhile, I’ll start again repairing my battle scarred heart. No matter how many layers of patches I’ve put on it, it seems to break just as easily as it did seventeen years ago.
Thank you all for reading this far. Drive carefully. Stay safe. Protect that heart of yours and hug your families close. It’s a proven fact that broken hearts can’t ever be entirely healed.
I can’t let another day go by without sending out a great big THANK YOU to all of you that supported my Giving Tuesday Facebook fundraiser for the Truck Safety Coalition. Monetary donations, as well as verbal and written support, all made my day. Sometimes I feel that working to make our roads safer is too hard, maybe even impossible, and I feel lonely in the fight. But you proved to me, once again, that I’m not alone, and that many people care about the victims and their families as well as the underlying purpose.
I started out with a goal of raising $1,000, the same amount I struggled to raise last year. I put the fundraiser up the evening before Giving Tuesday because I was afraid I’d have technical problems trying to do it early Tuesday. I don’t know why I assume things won’t go as planned, but I didn’t have any trouble getting the page to work, and by late evening I was already close to goal.
Well. I couldn’t start Giving Tuesday with only a couple hundred dollars to raise all day, so I upped the goal to $1200, and was quickly nearing that goal too. So I boosted it again to $1500 and by afternoon was slightly over. It felt kind of like cheating to raise it again, but I did, one last time, to $2000 and several more friends helped me make that final goal. I should have just started at $2000, but that felt so far out of the realm of reality, and I was afraid of failure.
So thank you. You give me renewed hope that the world can be a pretty wonderful place, and people are kind and compassionate and generous. You gave what you could, and it was, as a blogger friend of mine often says, enough.
We’re going live tomorrow! I’ve rarely done any live work on Facebook before, but tomorrow is the day! The Truck Safety Coalition will be featuring volunteers, board members and staff in short presentations and interviews every hour on the hour between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m tomorrow. You can see it all on their Facebook page.
I’m live at 10:00 a.m. I’ve been practicing, but you never know how it will really go. I’m not sure I can get through it without crying, so I may end up doing an abbreviated version. Or maybe tears are just what we need for people to realize how important safety is for us all.
Below is what I’m planning to say. What actually comes out of my mouth tomorrow may be completely different.
Hey everybody! My name is Dawn King. I’ve been a volunteer with the Truck Safety Coalition for more than 15 years. When people first hear me talk about volunteering with TSC they assume I’m a retired truck driver or something.
But that’s not it.
I volunteer with TSC to honor my dad. Some of you know that he was killed a couple days before Christmas back in 2004 when he was driving to the airport to catch a flight, planning to spend the holidays with family.
He was on the interstate, early in the morning of December 23rd when he came upon a small crash. He would have called it a fender bender. Police, ambulance and fire trucks were already on the scene, and traffic was slowly being directed around the crash.
Dad was in back of a semi, and both of them, along with most of the rest of traffic, managed to slow down and move into the left lane. But the semi behind dad never saw the slowed traffic. He never saw all those revolving emergency lights on that dark early morning. The semi behind dad slammed into him with the cruise control still engaged. Dad’s vehicle was pushed into the semi ahead of him, then spun out into the median. Dad was partially ejected through a rear window even though he was wearing his seatbelt.
They say he died instantly.
What should have been a joyous time of year turned into tragedy and my family’s lives were changed forever. Dad was the trunk of our family tree, our last living parent. Without him I and my 3 siblings felt lost. We had no idea what we should do next, where we should turn.
And then someone searching randomly on the internet came across the Truck Safety Coalition and I called them asking for advice. And that’s where it all began.
TSC helped connect us to an attorney who in turn told me the things I needed to do immediately to protect our interests. That was a big first step. And the further we got into the process the more I realized how huge the problems are in the trucking industry. How often the families who are injured or killed are considered just another cost of doing business.
Every one of my siblings said they wanted to do something, to make sure no one ever had to go through the pain we were experiencing. And volunteering for this organization is how we’re making a difference.
Volunteering for TSC changed my life, it gave me a place to put my anger and my grief. It gave me the opportunity to help other people. To make positive change. It gave me a direction.
We know we won’t stop all crashes. We know change is slow and difficult. But every step we make toward protecting both the motoring public AND the drivers of these trucks saves someone an injury, saves a life, keeps a family together. Even though we can’t identify specific individuals who weren’t involved in a crash because , for example, a double 33 foot trailer wasn’t on their highway, we know that working to keep longer double 33 foot trailers off many of our roads has saved lives.
The Truck Safety Coalition was there when my family needed it. And we want to make sure they continue to be there for all the families, especially the new families far into the future. People are beginning their long treks through grief and pain every single year. Approximately 5,000 people die each year in crashes with commercial trucks. Over 150,000 are injured!
You never think it will happen to you or your family until it does.
It takes money to keep an organization afloat. We can’t let our families down, those new faces, so raw with grief can’t be ignored. We have to raise enough money to keep talking in Washington, and to keep supporting the people who are affected by these crashes.
We need your help.
Next spring we’ll be inviting families to Washington, to give them and their loved ones a voice on Capitol Hill. It’s a conference called Sorrow to Strength which we do every other year. The families, particularly the new families, come to the conference filled with sorrow, and through their time together with other families who have gone through similar experiences, they learn more about the issues, and about themselves.
We see people come the first day barely able to speak their story, who leave after four days with new confidence, strength and commitment, people who have found their voices.
We are all stronger than we ever thought we could be.
We need money to be able to do that. If you’re interested, there are a number of scholarships that need funding. Every dollar helps. You can learn more about the conference and the specific needs at our website, trucksafety.org, under the tab “Sorrow to Strength.”
And, at an every day level, we need funds to have someone answer the phone when a new family calls for help.
We need funds to attend meetings with the agencies that make the rules that govern the trucking industry, to make certain that safety is always involved in any decision.
We need funds for someone to reach out to families soon after the crash, to make sure they know we’re here.
There are so many things that need to be done to meet our duel mission of supporting families and affecting change. And they all require funding.
Truck Safety affects everyone. We all share the roads with commercial trucks. We are all at risk. Help us keep educating, keep supporting, keep pushing for change.
Please donate. You’ll find my page on Facebook or you can go to the Truck Safety Coalition Facebook page and donate there.
And if YOU or your family or friends have been in a crash with a commercial truck, and you’d like to join us in our work, or you want some advice, or just need to connect with other people with a similar experience, please contact us.
You can find out more about our organization and how to reach us at trucksafety.org.
If you knew my dad you know he wouldn’t have been quiet if one of his kids had been killed that December morning.
I can’t be quiet either.
I would be grateful if you would find it in your heart to donate so we can continue this important work.
Giving Tuesday is November 30th, which is one week from today.
In case you’re not familiar with that concept, it’s a day where people use Facebook to showcase their favorite nonprofits, then ask their friends and family to donate, through a button on their Facebook post, in order to raise money for their good causes.
Most of you know I’m on the board of CRASH, which is part of the Truck Safety Coalition. CRASH stands for Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways. We work, alongside P.A.T.T. (Parents Against Tired Truckers) to make legislative and rule changes focusing on trucks driving with us on our nation’s roads.
I do this in honor of my dad, who was killed December 23, 2004 by a tired trucker who drove all night to get a load of electronics to retail outlets in time for holiday shopping. He fell asleep an hour from his destination, while still driving. Profits overroad safety that early morning, and my dad paid the ultimate price.
CRASH and P.A.T.T. watch the hours of service rules and push back when industry tries to get those extended. We don’t always win, but we do some of the time, and we know that when we win fewer people die. We are also working on getting stronger rear underride guards, automatic emergency braking on all trucks, increased minimum liability insurance for all commercial trucks, and we’re fighting against teen drivers being allowed to drive across the country.
CRASH and P.A.T.T. also support the families of those killed or injured in a crash with a commercial truck. Nearly 5,000 people die every single year, and over 100,000 are injured. The loss of life has gone up 45% since 2009. Profits over safety makes me so angry.
There’s more, but details aren’t the point of this post. The point is that next Tuesday I’ll be asking friends and family to donate to CRASH. We’re making it easy, over on Facebook, and I hope you’ll consider chipping in. I know you have lots of places you support, and I’d be honored if you decide to add CRASH to your list of nonprofits deserving your attention.
Last year I took a leap of faith and set my goal at $1,000, way over my usual effort of $250. I didn’t really think I could raise that much, but I was surprised and humbled when so many friends donated. A few dollars here, a few dollars there, and, late in the afternoon, I was close to my goal. And then a special friend made the effort to get me over the top.
I almost cried.
These days I work with families whose crashes are recent; their grief is so raw. It hurts me to the core, but it’s necessary work. And in order for us to keep working with them, to keep giving them support, to continue to include them in our truck safety family, we need financial support. It’s not easy to ask, but I need to.
I hope you will be in a position to help. One week from today. Next Tuesday you’ll find me on Facebook all day.
Regardless of what you decide, I appreicate all the support you’ve given me in the years since dad was killed. It will be 17 years next month, though it feels like yesterday.
I miss him every day. All of this is in his honor.
You all know my dad was killed in a preventable truck crash December 23, 2004, and that ever since then I’ve been a volunteer for the Truck Safety Coalition. Our mission is to provide compassionate support to victims and their families, and to educate people and policymakers about changes that should be implemented to make our roads safer for everyone.
And, you all know that change is slow and hard.
Many of you have expressed frustration in support of me and our organization’s effort, and here’s an easy way that you can help.
The Senate is taking up S. 2016, the Surface Transportation Investment Act (you have heard it referred to as the Infrastructure Bill) this week. They’ll probably debate into next week. Inside that bill is a weak attempt at getting automatic emergency braking systems (AEB) on trucks.
Due to pressure from the trucking industry, the bill only calls for this lifesaving technology to be mandated on new Class 7 and 8 trucks. Those are the biggest trucks out there, and yes it will be very good to have mandated AEB on the new trucks that size. But what about all the medium and small commercial trucks running around in our neighborhoods?
Last year there was a bill that mandated AEB on all vehicles. Doesn’t that make more sense? Car manufacturers have agreed to have AEB on all their new vehicles in the next few years. Truck cab manufacturers already offer it, but it’s not mandated and companies, looking to save some money, often order new cabs without it.
In case you’re interested, the cost of adding AEB to a new truck will run about $270 to $290. For perspective, the cost of a new Class 6 truck can be $90,000 or more. Seems a small price to pay for safety, don’t you think?
Based on new truck sales data there are about 500,000 new Class 3-6 trucks sold every year. New sales of these medium and small trucks has increased by 16% in the past 5 years alone. And many thousands of these trucks are running through our neighborhoods daily, delivering all the stuff we buy online these days.
Kids playing, people walking or biking, or just driving home through their neighborhoods are exposed to all the delivery trucks, all days of the week, early in the morning and late into the evening. Why would we not want these trucks equipped with available and inexpensive safety technology?
One last statistic. Small and medium trucks are responsible for 27% of all fatalities in commercial truck crashes. In 2019 there were almost 5,000 people killed in truck related crashes. So approximately 1350 people were killed in crashes with small and medium trucks. I don’t know how many of those were crashes, like my dad’s, where the victims were waiting in traffic and were struck from behind. But even if it’s only a few, are those lives not as valuable as the lives lost to crashes with huge trucks?
It should be a simple decision to mandate Automatic Emergency Braking on all vehicles, all cars, all trucks, no matter the size. That way, no matter the reason for the inattention of a vehicle driver, be it a medical event, distraction, or sleepiness, the vehicle can sense when something is up ahead and slow or stop before the crash happens.
If you were sitting in that car, stuck in traffic with nowhere to go, while another vehicle, car or truck, was bearing down on you, wouldn’t you be hoping they had AEB? I think about it all the time, maybe you will too, now that you’re heard about an easy solution.
So here’s what you can do. Call or email your two Senators and tell them that you want Senate Bill S. 2016 to require the DOT (Department of Transportation) to mandate Automatic Emergency Braking systems on all vehicles, not just Class 7 and 8 trucks. Tell them every life that can be saved should be saved, regardless of the size of the vehicles involved.
You can find the phone number and/or the websites of your Senators by going to this link. You put in your state and it will bring up your two Senators. You can click on them and go directly to their email contact form. Their phone numbers are there too, so if you’d rather call, you can. Just tell the person that answers the phone what your concern is. Don’t be nervous. It’s their job to listen to you.
We don’t know if we will be able to get all vehicles into this bill. But for darn sure it won’t happen if we don’t try.
Your voice is important, and I’m grateful, as always, for your support. Next time you see that delivery van zipping around your neighborhood wonder, like I do, if it has Automatic Emergency Braking. And look forward to the day, sometime in the future, when you won’t have to wonder about that anymore.
Thanks, dad, for being the inspiration for my work. You never gave up. We won’t either.
On this day when people everywhere are celebrating their dads, I celebrate you.
I wonder what you’d look like today, at age 91. I can’t quite imagine you any other way than how I’ve always known you. You never seemed to change much, you never aged.
But you will always be 75, the age you were when you were stolen from us.
I know I’m lucky we had you that long. I know plenty of families where people have been stolen or injured much earlier than 75. I know plenty of people whose parents were taken when they were much younger than I was.
I know parents whose children were taken. That’s beyond anything I can even imagine.
So I know we were lucky. .
But I can’t help but wish you were here today.
Every day is Father’s Day, dad, because we all think about you every day.
Here it is Friday already and I haven’t been back to thank so many of you for your support of my Giving Tuesday Facebook fundraiser.
As you may remember I was raising funds for CRASH (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways) which is a 501c3 under the umbrella of the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC). I’m a volunteer with them, and have been since dad was killed December 23, 2004 by a tired semi driver who failed to see traffic stopped ahead of him.
Anyway, giving Tuesday is a way for people to easily donate to nonprofits and many of you donated to mine, and I can’t thank you enough.
This year we had two anonymous donors each willing to match the first $10,000 we raised, so it was very important that collectively we get to that magic mark, and we did! We actually raised about $13,000, so all in all the organizations, between CRASH and P.A.T.T (Parents Against Tired Trucking, the other organization under the TSC umbrella) raised $33,000.
This is much more than we’ve ever been able to raise on this platform before, and that’s due to our First Reponse Coordinator getting behind the effort, organizing us and cheering us on. Next year we hope to have even more volunteers put up their own fundraiser on Giving Tuesday so that we can raise even more.
By maintaining our fundraisers, talking about them throughout the day (I even did a live interview), changing the images at the top, sharing it often, we not only kept ourselves front and center, but we reenergized our donor base and our volunteers.
Now we’re ready to start work — there is much to be done, and with your help we’ll be able to move forward, helping more people, one family at a time. If you weren’t able to help, that’s OK, I appreciate your emotional support as much as your monetary support. I know you guys have my back and that counts more than you can ever know.