Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Lunch N Learn

The Truck Safety Coalition has started a series of interviews, done during lunch hours, of different people working on issues within the truck safety world. The series is titled Lunch N Learn.

Earlier this year we did an interview with Michael Belzer, former truck driver and now a PhD and professor at Wayne State University, focused on the purported driver shortage. Dr. Belzer authored “Sweatshops on Wheels,” a book about the deregulation of the trucking industry. You can go to the video library on the Truck Safety Coalition’s website (trucksafety.org) and click on “Debunking the Driver Shortage” to see that interview.

This Thursday, May 5th, at 12:30 p.m. eastern daylight time, we will be interviewing Representative Andy Levin who has authored a bill, H.R. 7517, the Guaranteeing Overtime for Truckers Act. We’ll be finding out what led him to the writing of this bill, and how he hopes to move it forward.

You can tune in to hear about this industry changing idea yourself, just by clicking this link on Thursday at 12:30 eastern.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time you’ll know that most truck drivers are paid by the mile, not by the hour, and that creates a lot of the safety issues that we all face when we’re sharing the roads with big commercial trucks.

I think you’ll find the Congressman interesting and informative. I hope you can join us. And if you can’t, I will post a link later for you to watch at a time convenient to you.


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Broken heart

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.

Dad and his sister.

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.

Being a big brother.

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?

Being a dad at Christmas.

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.

Being a dad to such a big family carries a lot of responsibility.

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.

Being appreciated by his employer.

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.

We used to laugh a lot. Before.

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 imagine he has an ocean view now too.


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What’s the difference?

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.


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Truck rant

(This was written in January 2012. It was sitting in my draft folder, never posted, probably because I was afraid of offending someone. Now, nine years later, the same issues are still being studied by the DOT. Other than mandating unboard recorders nothing has been accomplished there.)

Warning – this is probably not going to be politically correct.  And I remind myself that what’s put out on the internet stays on the internet.  Good or bad.  But I’m working on truck safety stuff again, which makes me relive some of the initial moments and days after Dad’s crash.  And some things just need to be said.  Out loud.  Emphatically.

I’m heading to Washington again, for more meetings with the DOT; Secretary LaHood, FMSCA Administrator Anne Ferro and then members of Congress, to talk about things that can be done to improve safety.  Sometimes it all feels pointlessly repetitive, like we’re just wasting time, ours and theirs.

But then I remember.

I remember getting the call at work.  I remember signing papers to have Dad cremated and faxing them to the funeral home from a retail UPS store the night before Christmas Eve. I remember suffering through the holiday cheer of the employees as I waited for my confirmation while trying not to cry.  I remember sitting in my brother’s Alabama living room the night of Christmas Eve listening to the county coroner explain what happened.  I remember not understanding.

And this is what I can tell you now that I know more, understand more.

I know that though Dad was the kind of guy that would fix things and make them better, dead is forever and dead can’t be fixed.  And as much as I want to I can never make my family whole.  I told my sister, a couple of years into this journey, that if we could save one life through our efforts with the Truck Safety Coalition we’d be even.  She said “No we won’t.”  And she’s right.  We will never be even, not ever again.

So we can’t fix the fact that Dad is dead.  But we can fix fatigued driving.  And though common sense says that the easiest way to fix fatigued driving is to lower the number of hours a person can consecutively drive, well, maybe I’m just a naive civilian.

I received an emailed response from Administrator Ferro to my own emotional email expressing my displeasure with the new Hours of Service rule.  She says, and rightly so, that reducing truck crashes will take a complicated combination of rules, a push toward safety from many fronts –  and that reducing the number of allowed hours would continue to be studied.  She assures me a reduction in consecutive hours of driving could still be on the table.  OK.  So let’s study this for another year or more.  Apparently the people that will be killed by fatigued drivers during this period of study are expendable…collateral damage if you will.

Or maybe they’re just the cost of doing business.  After all, the trucking industry is the backbone of our economy, don’t you know.  So what’s good for the ATA (American Trucking Association) is good for all of us.   Right?  Well maybe good for everyone except those of us who get calls in the middle of the day, those of us signing our family member away to a funeral home, those of us left with a hole that can never be filled.  Those of us angry in our grief.

I’m not apologizing for this rant.  It’s your choice to read or not read.  Comment or not.  It wasn’t written for you.  It was written for me.  Because I have to go back to Washington and talk to these people again about common sense safety issues.  And I shouldn’t have to.  I shouldn’t have to explain simple concepts to people that are in power and are supposed to be experts in their fields.  I shouldn’t have to exploit Dad’s death to get something done.  I shouldn’t have to relive the whole thing over and over and over so that they can justify ‘studying’ things some more.

Give it up people.  The time for studying and discussion is over.  We need some action.  People are dying.

I don’t know what more I can say.


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Giving Tuesday thanks

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.

Again, thank you all so much.


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In preparation of Giving Tuesday

It’s become a bigger and bigger thing, Giving Tuesday. Put on by Facebook, it’s a day when nonprofits post about their organizations and ask for friends and familiy, and friends of their friends and family, to give a little to help. There are all sorts of nonprofits, and each one has a worthy story to tell.

Long time readers know our story, but we’re coming up on the anniversary and tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. It seems like a good time to tell it again.

In 2004, early in the morning of December 23rd, my dad was killed by a sleepy semi driver while on his way to the Atlanta airport with a ticket in his pocket to fly north for the holidays.

That’s the short and shocking version. The long version is just as shocking once you realize how preventable dad’s and so many other crashes are.

After dad was killed, and while we were trying to get our footing, someone found the Truck Safety Coalition online, and through them we found a truck crash lawyer who knew exactly what to do to protect our rights. Suddenly we had help.

And once all of that was settled some of us found that we wanted to help other families too, so we joined the Truck Safety Coalition to talk to folks who were facing the same sorts of challenges we did. We have two goals; we provide support to families who are just as shocked as we were and we educate lawmakers about the dangers on our roads. By doing both we provide a place for people just like us, living with unimaginable pain, to use their grief to make our roads safer.

It’s complicated, I know. Nothing is black and white, every regulation has unintended consequences. But every family I’ve talked to in the sixteen years since dad was killed wants the same thing we did way back then – we just want fewer families to have to go through the loss and grief we went through.

Just over 5,000 people died in truck-related crashes in 2019. Over 125,000 people were injured and trends are continuing to go up. Every time we hold our Sorrow to Strength conference I meet new families who are in the middle of crushing pain.

There are always new families.

Truck crashes are not Republican or Democrat, they don’t recognize any particular religion or faith, don’t care about race, ethnicity or gender. Truck crash survivors and families of victims who come to us for help become members of our truck safety family, and we know that within our family we are understood and supported. Even sixteen years after the crash.

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. I’ll have a post up on Facebook asking for donations to CRASH (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways) which along with P.A.T.T. (Parents Against Tired Truckers) form the Truck Safety Coalition. Both CRASH and P.A.T.T are 501c3 nonprofits, and this year because of a Covid Relief Bill (the CARE Act), everyone is allowed to use up to a $300 charitable donation as a tax deduction even if you don’t normally get to deduct charitable gifts.

So I’m hoping some (OK a lot) of you will consider making that donation. This year we have two anomymous donors who are matching the first $10K we raise on Tuesday. So your $1.00 donation will actually give us $3.00!

Thank you for reading this, and looking at pictures of my dad. My brothers and sister and I miss him every single day, and always will. Sadly we know there are thousands of new families, just in 2020, that are missing their family members, or dealing with traumatic injuries too.

Please help us help them.


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Speaking up for safety

What would you do if someone called you on a Thursday and asked you to testify before a Senate subcommittee the next Tuesday? What if it was about something important, something close to your heart? What if the things that needed to be said wouldn’t be heard unless you went?

These people, and thousands more like them, are important.

Then of course you’d gather up your courage and go! So I did,

Time to go to work.

Yesterday, coincidentally on my dad’s 91st birthday, I testified before the Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety about the State of Trucking. I wasn’t alone, there was also representation from the American Trucking Association, The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers, the Livestock Marketing Association, and the State Police Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

The other guys. And me.

If you’ve ever watched a Senate hearing on TV you’ll know what it was like.

The Senators all sit elevated with big chairs. The witnesses sit together at a long table down below in front of microphones that have little clocks in them to time how long you’re speaking. And you have to remember to turn your microphone on before you begin. And especially to turn it off after you’re finished with what you want them to hear.

They ask questions from an elevated advantage.

It was an honor to be asked, but of course I was nervous. Still, the Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition wrote the first draft of my comments, and I edited it using words that I could get my mouth around. Then another board member helped me shave the speech down to five minutes and punch it up to gain attention.

The Hart Senate Office Building, where the hearing took place.

I practiced saying it out loud for hours on Monday, in front of my husband, the Executive Director and the board member. That helped a lot. And of course early Tuesday morning, while my husband was in the shower I spoke it aloud a couple times too.

A true statement.

Tuesday we arrived at the Senate Office Building early, to meet with one of my Senators who was going to introduce me at the hearing. Senator Peters is very supportive of safety technology and spoke eloquently about my work. I was the only witness to get an introduction like that and I appreciate him so much.

Meeting with Senator Peters before the hearing.

I got to speak first at the hearing, which was helpful, not to have to wait and listen to the other four speak. Though maybe I would have adjusted my talk to object to some of what they said if I had heard them first. But I doubt it. My oral testimony already countered most items they were asking for.

I think I was disagreeing with something.

Turns out teen drivers and allowing cattle haulers exemptions from the hours of service rules were the big topics, and of course I oppose both of those. But the Senators that agree with these ideas didn’t really want to hear opposition, so only one question was directed at me, and I was hard pressed to get any other thoughts in without them throwing me a question.

Sometimes it’s hard to get people to focus on what’s important.

A hearing is not a debate, you’re not allowed to interrupt other speakers, though one Senator, thankfully, did ask, at the end of her questioning if any of us had anything else to add, and of course I did. And toward the end I did just butt in on the last Senator and make a point disagreeing with the ATA representative about teen drivers, and thankfully was then backed up by the Independent Operators representative because they don’t want teen drivers either.

And that’s how the hearing ended, so I guess we got the last word, at least on one topic.

I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to speak up for safety. I wasn’t heard on as many topics as I was prepared for because many Senators on our side of safety didn’t bother to attend. And that’s a shame. There can’t be a complete discussion unless both sides come to the table. I may not be speaking at the next hearing, but I’ll be on the phone urging the subcommittee members to show up that’s for sure.

In order to make meaningful change everybody has to work together.

And that’s the lesson I leave you with. If you care deeply about a topic, any topic, and you have an opportunity to share that passion, don’t be afraid. Do the thing that scares you, make sure you’re heard.

Change is hard, sometimes it’s scary, but it’s always worth the effort.

I got lots of support from my husband too.


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Healing walk

This morning was the 15th anniversary of the semi-truck crash that killed my dad. Fifteen years of working on issues to make our roads safer. Fifteen years of missing him every single day.

For whatever reason this year was rougher than usual. So after my physical therapy session I planned to take myself off for a walk in the woods. Unseasonably warm, at 52F (11.11C) this December afternoon, I packed extra water for Katie-girl who insisted on going along. “We can’t waste a day like today mama!”

Early afternoon sunlight felt warm on this December day.

Though it was a Monday there were plenty of people enjoying the sunshine. Everyone we met smiled at the cute sheltie who was showing off her good side by letting little kids pet her. We even ran into a woman who said she used to handle shelties at dog shows and that “someone did some good breeding” with Katie.

A perfect day to walk in the woods.

We moved at Katie’s speed which means we walked very slowly. There was so much to see and sniff. I was in no hurry either, thinking about Dad and Mom, and how much they would have enjoyed a walk in this woods on such a beautiful day, and that made me smile.

Do I get to choose which way we go mama?

About an hour into the walk my phone, which I had set to map our walk, intoned “Mile 1, split time – not moving.” I laughed out loud. We were so slow that the GPS in my phone didn’t think we had moved at all. Katie was insulted.

We’ll come back here soon.

All in all it was a lovely walk in a beautiful park. It’s new to us, we were introduced to it just this past fall by a friend. Katie says we owe her cookies or something else equally nice, as this is a wonderful place to walk. While we were there I bought a pass for 2020 as I’m sure we’ll be back!

Sometimes life throws you curves.

There’s nothing quite like spending time outside to shake the blues. I’ll always miss my parents, but it felt good taking them with me on today’s walk.

And I bet they enjoyed it just as much as we did.

Made it through another Dec 23rd.


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Truck Drivers want to spend the holiday with family too

So much of what I write about trucks talks about their affect on us in cars. Trucks plowing into the back of slowed traffic. Trucks representing such a high percentage of crashes in construction zones. Fatigued truck drivers. Distracted truck drivers.

But did you know that driving a commercial truck is the most deadly job in the United States? The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks it as #1 on the list of dangerous jobs in 2018.

In fact, in 2018, 831 truck drivers died on the job. Many of these were truck on truck crashes, or individual trucks going off the road for a variety of reasons. But there were plenty of truck/car crashes too.

In 2018 almost 5,000 people died in truck related crashes. The numbers have been trending up since 2009. The stresses of driving a truck intersecting with the stresses of driving a car never end well for those in the car. And the guilt and grief most truck drivers experience when there’s a crash, particularly a fatal crash, can be overwhelming.

Recently I found a few articles about trucker suicide. The drivers are caught in the middle, between the shippers that want their goods moved quickly, the trucking company that wants the goods shipped profitably, the loading docks that are overbooked, road construction everywhere, and people driving cars much too close — not leaving enough space for trucks to maneuver safely. And to top it off they are paid by the mile. Every delay costs them money.

It’s hard to make a living on the road.

For those of us working on safety issues 2019 was a busy but frustrating year. We pushed four bills, each addressing a different issue, the objective of each to make our roads safer for everyone – truck drivers included. It was hard to feel like we made much progress, politics being what it is today, but we were out there sharing ideas and pushing safety and people on the hill and out in our communities listened. That’s a beginning.

But we all know that every moment we are out there pushing for safety more people, people in cars and people in trucks, are dying. Every delay in our work costs someone his or her life. On average 13 people a day are dying in truck crashes.

Next year, 2020, we’ll be working hard again. If you’re still thinking about donating to our cause, here’s the link. We’d appreciate it. Our work is so important and we can’t do it without your help.

And if you know a truck driver, give them a hug and ask them to stay safe. Spread the word among your family and friends during this holiday season about driving safely around trucks. Remind everyone that safety advocates are working to make the roads safer for everyone, truck drivers included.

Because they want, and deserve, to go home to their families too.

Dedicated to my dad, killed by a tired trucker Dec 23, 2004.

Ten years before.


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The hard ask

It’s that time of year again, when nonprofits tally up what they’ve accomplished and work out the details for the year ahead.

And when they ramp up their fundraising efforts.

There are so many good causes, all of them vying for our attention — and that’s not even including the political candidates who are daily asking for donations. It all makes me want to crawl back into bed, pull the sheet up to my chin, and watch mindless television until this winter is over.

But that won’t solve the world’s problems, and for almost every problem there is a deserving group of people trying to make things better.

Many of you know what problem I’ve been trying to make better, the issues I’ve been working on for the past fifteen years. But in case you don’t, let me tell you the story.

And then I’ll make the hard ask.

Very early on the morning of December 23rd, 2004 my dad was driving from his Alabama home to the Atlanta airport with the intent of catching a flight north to spend Christmas with my sister. It’s a two hour drive, and his flight was at 10 a.m. so he left long before daylight.

About an hour into his trip, just after he passed the Alabama/Georgia line and right in front of a truck weigh station traffic slowed and then stopped. Up ahead not too far away was a small fender bender crash; there were already police and fire trucks attending to the scene. A trooper was waving traffic into the left lane.

Multiple sets of emergency vehicle lights were flashing in the dark morning along that straight stretch of freeway.

Dad pulled over behind a semi truck. Another car pulled over behind dad. The semi behind that car, driven by a young man who was exhausted, did not stop. The car behind dad noticed the semi coming and pulled over into the median.

My dad didn’t stand a chance as the semi barreled into him at 65 miles per hour.

And so the story of our family changed in that instant. My mother had died suddenly with no warning in July. Dad was killed in December. Their four adult children were left stunned.

But we wanted answers. How could the truck driver not see all those emergency vehicles ahead of him? Everyone else was able to slow and move over. Why not that semi?

Turns out the driver fell asleep. He fell asleep while driving a vehicle because he had driven all night in order to get a load of electronics to Atlanta to be sold for Christmas. He was enticed by his dispatcher to push to Atlanta even though he was tired, enticed by the offer of another load heading to Florida where he lived. If he made it to Atlanta that morning he could take the load to Florida. He could be home for Christmas.

Instead he spent the day in jail and my dad spent the day in the morgue.

As we learned more we found out that this is not an isolated thing, semi trucks are plowing into the back of stopped traffic almost daily. There are a lot of reasons why, and there are a lot of other safety issues in the trucking industry too. Most of the problems are not the drivers, but the way the industry operates and has historically treated drivers.

It’s complicated.

But what is not complicated is that almost 5,000 people die in crashes with big commercial trucks every year, and over 100,000 are injured. Since my dad was killed almost 75,000 people have been killed in truck crashes. A million and a half people have been injured.

And everywhere any push for change is met with resistance. From the ATA (American Trucking Association) and the Independent Operators. Because changes for safety are perceived as challenges to profit.

And that’s where the Truck Safety Coalition comes in. It’s a nonprofit, combining CRASH (Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways) and PATT (Parents Against Tired Truckers). Both groups are made up of volunteers who are family members of those killed or injured. The coalition provides a combined management of staff and resources for the two groups as they fight to educate the public and the industry about issues that make our roads unsafe for everyone.

This past year we focused on four bills that we have in the House and Senate, each one addressing a different issue. We support speed limiters for truks, underride guards on trucks to prevent cars from sliding under the semi in a crash, increased liability insurance, from the $750,000 required since 1980 to something indexed to inflation, and especially requiring automatic emergency braking for large commercial trucks.

Automatic emergency braking might have saved my dad.

In 2019 we also held a four day conference so that families of victims and those injured can gather together, gain strength from each other, and learn about the issues and how to talk about them. Then the volunteers go out and meet with their Representatives and Senators, pushing for support on the legislation we have pending.

All of this work costs money. Some of the volunteers are able to donate, but many didn’t receive a settlement, are regular working people trying to support their families and don’t have much to spare.

And that’s where the hard ask comes in.

There are two ways you can help us. Because Tuesday is “Giving Tuesday” on Facebook, I started a donation post there in the hopes that we’ll get matched, though to be honest I doubt it, there are so many others out there that we have never had a match from Facebook.

The second way, and perhaps the more efficient way, is if you would consider donating directly at our website. This link will put you directly on the donation page. But if you would like to know more about the organization, I’ll put the home URL here.

It’s hard for me to ask you, my readers, my supporters, Katie fans, music lovers, photography nerds, to donate to my cause. I’ve never been a great salesperson. And most people don’t think this is an issue that relates to them.

Until it does.

Because truck crashes aren’t political, they aren’t blue or red, they focus on no specific religion, no social class, crashes don’t care if you’re straight or gay, male or female. Mothers and fathers, and sister and brothers and uncles and aunts and best friends and lovers and babies die in crashes caused by unsafe practices.

And truck drivers die.

Driving a truck is one of the most dangerous jobs in this country. In 2017 about 800 truck drivers died just doing their jobs. The work we do will save drivers’ lives too.

So. During this hectic holiday season when all you want to do is focus on family and friends, good food, days off work, colored lights and beautiful music, I’m asking you to think, for a moment, about trucks and death.

I know it isn’t easy.

Just know there are thousands of families out there this holiday season who are missing someone lost to an avoidable crash. There are families out there struggling with huge medical bills for the care of their injured loved ones. There are families out there that are turning their grief into energy for change, to honor their family or friend. To do something with the pain.

Help us continue that work. Please give what you can.

I will be forever grateful.

Thank you.

At my wedding in 1990