It’s happening regularly across our country. Over and over, it seems daily, I read the stories. This one happened yesterday, and not so far from me.
Look at the photos; the SUV is wedged entirely under the trailer of the semi truck. It was a dark and rainy morning, the SUV was traveling on the divided highway when the semi pulled out in order to make a turn.
The SUV driver is dead but he might have had a chance if the truck had side guards installed on the trailer. Most industrialized countries around the world have these safety devices on their trucks.
Our country doesn’t, because the trucking industry protests the weight that would be added to the truck. They say the guards will cost them money – by making those loads that are already at maximum weight be reduced. They say the guards will mean more trucks are on the road.
The truth is most trucks aren’t at the maximum weight and won’t have to decrease their load. The truth is we could probably get the weight limit increased for the 800 pounds side guards might add. The truth is we might be able to get tax credits or other benefits for truck companies willing to help make our roads safer.
Some truck companies and trailer manufacturers are beginning to consider adding guards, not because it’s legislated, but because it’s the right thing to do. They’re willing to absorb the weight and the cost because it could save lives.
There are a lot of potential solutions, but none of them came in time for the driver of this SUV. He was 75, the same age my dad was when he was hit from behind by a semi and pushed into the semi in front of him. This man’s name is William. So was my dad’s.
It just hits so hard. Another man, probably a husband, a father, maybe a grandfather, someone’s brother, neighbor, church friend, local man about town, another man is dead.
And it didn’t have to happen.
We’re working on it but we’re slow and we’re fighting uphill. We don’t have the money that the truck industry has, and it’s harder for us to influence decision makers.
But we’re not giving up and we’re not going away.
Please, if you can, support our efforts. We’re working both with industry directly and within government to get side guards installed on trailers. You can donate to the Truck Safety Coalition via PayPal at their website. Funds donated will go toward our work to make the highways safer for all of us.
And there’s another way to help. A bill is being worked on that will require side guards, and I’ll ask you to call your Senator to ask for support. I’ll let you know when to call.
In the meantime – stay safe.
I think this morning, the Sunday morning after Charlottesville, we could all use a smile. Not to trivialize what happened there, what is happening in smaller and less splashy incidents all over our country, but to give our broken hearts a tiny bit of relief.
There’s this guy named Trent who writes a blog and weekly asks us to tell him what made us smile during the previous week. I haven’t followed him long, or even regularly, but I happened to read him this morning and knew that I wanted to share the things that made me smile this week.
I wasn’t on an adventure, not camping with Katie-girl, or off exploring by myself. I spent this week at home with the camera, just shooting regular stuff — the things we all see but rarely stop to really look at. Like things in my garden, during this end of summer time when the gardens always look their best even though they’re becoming a bit frayed around the edges.
And it rained a lot this week, as happens on late summer afternoons. Gushing downpours that wash away the humidity for a bit.
I stood on my front porch and shot the rain hitting the driveway. Sometimes it seemed as though the drops were creating tiny little fireworks, as if they were celebrating summer.
After the rain I took Katie-girl to her park. The temperature had dipped down into the high 60s (15.5c) cool enough for a sheltie to enjoy a summer walk. We were surprised mid-walk by another thunder storm.
The wind blew and the rain drove down in sheets. We got wet, though the camera was safe inside my pack. Katie and I both smiled.
And of course I’m totally smiling over the fact the orioles are still visiting my feeder. Sometimes they get confused as to which feeder, but they’re still visiting.
I expect them to leave for the season any time now. I’ll miss them all. This morning there were two males and at least four females all vying for the feeder. I think that signals that they’re getting ready to head out for their winter home.
And last night I went out into the backyard after midnight to look for meteorites. Here in Michigan it’s supposed to be the best time to see them, and I did see one which was amazing. And no, that’s not the it, that’s a plane. The meteorite was much much brighter. Still I thought this was a cool shot.
Our backyard is too full of light, mostly from the neighbors huge yellow light over his garage, to really get great pictures of the night sky, but I had fun messing around with the camera anyway.
So these are some of the things that made me smile this week. What about you? What did you smile about? Care to share? Just link to Trent’s blog, we all need another smile!
Those of us working for truck safety appreciated all your support and kind words as we worked together to increase the safety on our roads. It’s been a tough few days for us as we gathered with determination to make a difference, many still raw from recent loss.
But it was amazing too.
I saw people with grief fresh on Saturday, sobbing through the initial telling of their stories, grow to tell those same stories calmly and firmly at the press conference on Tuesday. Friendships were forged that will last forever. People know they are not alone and progress is being made
One of the most exciting things I saw during the conference was a short video clip of a side underride guard being tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In the first clip a mid-sized car was sent into the side of a semi trailer at 35 miles per hour, the standard speed the IIHS uses in test crashes. Without a side guard the car slides right under the trailer, the car’s safety features useless because the front of the vehicle doesn’t collide with anything. Air bags don’t deploy, the test dummy heads strike the side of the trailer. Death is probable.
In the second clip a side guard has been attached to a semi trailer, and the car sent speeding toward the trailer. The front of the vehicle crashes into the side guard, crumpling as it is designed to do. The passenger compartment is protected, in fact after the crash the driver door still opens and the occupants would have been minimally injured.
Side and rear underride is a major safety issue, and one that The Truck Safety Coalition is focusing on this year. For many of our families it’s proof that finally someone is listening. So many of their loved ones died by sliding under a truck and finally we are making progress to stop that from happening in the future. The guard we saw is affordable, relatively light, and easy to install. And future iterations will be even lighter and more affordable. We believe that soon you’ll see them on the trucks driving near you on our nation’s roads.
I’m proud to be a part of this year’s Sorrow to Strength conference, proud to walk the halls of Congress, meet Members, talk to staff, support safety. Regardless of the political climate there is good work that will be done, good people to work with, good ideas that will be supported.
It wasn’t easy. My feet are tired and so is my head but my heart remains strong and my vision is clear. The roads are safer because of people like us, groups with no agenda other than safety. It takes work. But we’ll work on it forever.
Because safety is no accident.
I’m packing my bag, getting ready to go to Washington DC for the Sorrow to Strength conference. I’ll be with other families who have lost loved ones to preventable truck crashes and some people who have survived such crashes themselves. It’s five days that we look forward to and dread all at the same time.
Still, if you ask any individual attending, they will tell you straight away that the reason they work to make our roads safer is because they don’t want another family going through the pain and grief they’ve been through. They don’t want another family suffering because of something that is so preventable.
Tonight I’m listening to the 10:00 p.m. news as I zip the suitcase shut. The television is on just for background noise, I’m not paying much attention, more interested in making sure I don’t forget to take something important.
And then I hear the words ‘semi’ and ‘fatal’ and ‘construction zone.’
And I reel around and stand still as the story unfolds. You can read about it here.
There is construction on a stretch of freeway that I travel regularly. Today cars were slowed to merge into the construction zone. A semi lost control and rear ended the cars ahead. Two men are dead. A woman was airlifted in critical condition to a hospital. Doubtless there are other injuries, certainly other people who were terrified.
It’s early yet, and we don’t know the entire story. But regardless of the details the truth is that tonight there are new families facing a long journey through loss and injury. Their worlds have just imploded. A semi running into the back of cars slowing for construction is the definition of a preventable crash. I hope that we can connect with these families when they are ready. Meanwhile, I’ll travel to DC and try to be heard.
Because this is why I go to Washington.
I’ve had a good winter off, playing on the beach, watching light move across water, sleeping in, napping mid-afternoon. But it’s time to get back to work.
Work!??? You’re right; I’m retired. So what work am I talking about?
There are many of you new here at Change is Hard. You probably haven’t heard me talk about trucks and safety and my family’s story. You probably think my life is all about photography and travel and a special little dog. And sometimes it is.
“You can turn grief into action.”
But sometimes it’s about grief and loss and preventable crashes. And honoring the memory of my dad who was killed in December of 2004 by a tired semi driver who fell asleep at the wheel while going 65 miles per hour on a freeway in the early morning hours. A driver who failed to see the lights of emergency vehicles up ahead, the people working to clear a minor crash that had occurred earlier. A driver that didn’t notice the traffic stopped in front of him. Didn’t see my dad in his little red car until it was too late.
My dad was a guy who lived by safe rules. He had retired ten years earlier from a career managing chemical plants, inherently dangerous places. He made us all wear our life jackets in the boat when we were kids. He drove with us around and around the neighborhood when he taught us how to drive a stick shift car, until he was satisfied we could operate it safely. He helped my sister build her house in Tennessee, complete with extra roof brackets to hold the roof down in a tornado. Just in case. He carried an emergency contact list in his wallet, listing the four kids and spouses with work and home phone numbers. That’s how they knew where to find us after the crash.
“Hope in the face of difficulty.”
So after we got through the initial days filled with disbelief and unbearable grief, when we were moving into sad confusion buffeted by unrelenting grief, we began to ask questions. How did the driver not see all that traffic ahead? Not see all the emergency lights? The road was straight. The sight lines clear. We searched the internet looking for anything about truck crashes.
And we found the Truck Safety Coalition.
It’s an organization made up of the families of people who have been killed or injured in preventable truck crashes. It provides support to families and it works to change the way things are done in the trucking industry. Sometimes that means working to change regulations and laws. Sometimes that means working to change perceptions among people that drive trucks. Sometimes it’s about educating people that drive cars. Sometimes it means meeting with legislators and staff, or truck company executives, or members of other safety groups. Always it means honoring the memories of those we’ve lost, honoring the lives that have been changed forever of those who were injured.
It means trying to save lives
Every other year the families meet in Washington DC for a few days. We tell our stories, we sadly welcome the new families — those whose losses are recent, we talk about issues, resolutions, how to make a difference. And we go to the Hill and talk to everyone we can. Legislators, Regulators, the Press. Everyone. Sometimes they call us the ‘crazy truck people.’ That’s OK with us. Whatever gives attention to our issues.
“Even when you’re 100% right getting things done requires compromise.”
The conference is coming up next month. I can feel the tension escalating among my Truck Safety “family” already. Facebook is abuzz with truck issues. People are becoming stressed. Or depressed. Or hopeful. Or everything all rolled into one. Attending the conference brings it all back again for us. Yet it’s hard to stay away. “It’s like attending the funeral all over again.” says one mother who has been fighting for truck safety for more than twenty-five years.
The title of this post, and the quotes interspersed throughout, are from former President Obama’s July 2016 speech. I wrote a few things he said down on a random piece of paper way back then and that paper has found it’s way back to me this week. As I gear up for a difficult few days in Washington I thought they were appropriate. Hopeful. Democrat, Republican or Independent, the world would be a better place if we could learn to compromise. I’m hoping we find a bit of that during our conference this year.
It’s probably the most I can expect.
Katie here. Again. Apparently I have to do everything. Mama says she’s been too stressed to tell the story, and besides, I’m the princess, so it’s all about me. Right? Well not always, but anyway I’ll give you the short version of our latest adventure.
So this was day 2 of our great adventure. I’m in the car a lot, but today mama stopped at a couple parks to let me stretch my legs. Did you know that Kentucky has zero rest stops on I-75? ZERO! Who let that happen? How’s a princess supposed to..um…pee…and other stuff if there aren’t any rest stops?
Anyway, because we couldn’t stop like we normally do, mama took me on a side trip to visit Cumberland Falls! It was way back in the woods, 15 miles of narrow winding road before we got there. But when we did it was all worth it!
We didn’t get to see the big falls really well because the lower observation decks were closed. But we got a little peak at them.
Mostly we walked along the rocky shore and enjoyed the blue green water and the bright blue sky.
What a perfect day! It was still cold, and mama was glad she was still wearing her winter coat and gloves, but I thought it was wonderful!
Of course stopping there put us behind schedule but mama wasn’t worried, who needs a schedule anyway? We were about 2 hours away from our hotel when something happened. Our car quit!
Well not exactly quit….but the power seemed to go right out of it and we were in the mountains of Tennessee! Mama pulled over and called Onstar who sent out a tow truck. The tow truck driver said I couldn’t ride in his truck so mama seat belted me in and I got to ride in the car on top of the tow truck!
Mama was worried I’d be scared, but I’m a big girl and did just fine. OK, I was awfully glad to see her when we arrived at the dealership and she got me out of the car. And I didn’t like the diesel engine on the tow truck at all!
But in the end the tow truck driver was really nice, and took us to a hotel that my daddy had found for us that takes dogs…and now mama and I are all snuggled up in a king size bed with a big TV and some books and we’re going to wait out the rest of the weekend right here.
We’ll be just fine.
We even got to see a little of the sunset behind the hotel when I made mama take me out for the 5th time to check out the pee-mail. I didn’t want her to miss it.
I’m good like that.
Talk to you later…
Your adventure reporter Katie-girl.
Four years ago, or was it eight, I had lunch with a good friend. We’ve known each other for more than 40 years, adventured together decades ago, worked together, grieved together, laughed a lot. That kind of friend. But at that lunch we learned our politics were light years apart. I was surprised. So was she. By the end of lunch we had silently agreed to leave the politics out of our friendship, and it’s never come up again.
My philosophy, which I voiced then, was that you didn’t have to like the person, but you had to respect the office.
Yesterday the United States peacefully transferred power and, though I still believe in respecting the office, I’m having a hard time this time. I needed to settle, so instead of watching the inauguration I left home for the day and went to a place where I’ve always found peace.
Kensington Metro Park.
It was a dreary, soggy, grey day and few people were braving the raindrops and cold. I should have worn warmer and dryer shoes. And a hat. Still, the birds, always eager to great me, made me smile.
And there was color to be found if you looked for it.
Even when the fog began to drift in and the cold made it’s way into my bones I didn’t leave. So much on my mind, I debated both sides of the argument I’ve watched unfold in the news and in my friends.
Can a man who has spoken such vile things, a man who apologizes for none of it, a man who essentially uses his wealth and celebrity to bully, can such a man lead the free world? Can he be my president?
You don’t have to like the person, but you have to respect the office. Somehow that’s harder to do when your candidate didn’t win. I’m reminded by my more conservative friends that they quietly accepted a candidate they didn’t support for the past eight years.
Still…this president scares me.
On the other hand….respect the office.
I am more liberal than many of my friends and family, more conservative than others. Yet we all care about each other and I hope that will continue far into the future, beyond the term(s) of this president, beyond the terms of presidents to come.
Today I will respect the office, but am mindful that there must be accountability. It’s early yet, but I reserve my right to respectfully, peacefully but loudly protest any actions that take away benefits and rights from members of my family, my friends, and even strangers that deserve the same respect I give the office.
I’ll respect the office Mr. President. But I think we all expect some respect in return.
Change is hard.