One family’s heartbreak has sparked a nationwide effort to make the roads safer. The goal is to diminish damage in collisions between cars and big trucks.

South Dakota has a part in this due to the position of Senator John Thune’s position as Chairman on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation which would oversee changes to the trucking industry.

Jerry and Marianne Karth lost two daughters, AnnaLeah and Mary, in a crash when their vehicle went underneath a semi trailer in 2013. Since that tragic day their focus has been to prevent injury and death by having side guards and stronger rear guards installed on all large trucks. To read more about their story and subsequent efforts to advocate for safety measures visit annaleahmary.com.

To summarize if underride protection were on all semi trailers, the result would be fewer injuries and deaths. A framework of some kind underneath these trailers would either deflect or reduce the penetration of cars into that area to help keep the passenger compartment intact.

Where the two lines cross came from a recent accident in Jones County near Murdo a few weeks ago. According to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, the crash occurred on I-90 and a vehicle was unable to avoid hitting the side of a semi-trailer.

It’s not exactly sure if a lack of underride protection would have made a difference in the South Dakota crash. Nonetheless, the Karth family reached out in an attempt to have more people hear about their story and plead for action to prevent others from going through the same fate.

Reforms such as this are hard to enact. The Karth family and fellow advocate Lois Durso who has been through the same situation with her daughter Roya Sadigh have been in contact with Senator Thune and other members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation among others to plead their case.

Senator Thune has recognized the gravity of the situation and hopes a viable solution can be found in trying to balance concerns pertaining to both the trucking industry and protecting the citizenry. Washington D.C. television station WUSA9 did a profile on the uphill battle Durso and the Karths are facing. During the course of the expose the Special Assignment Unit from WUSA9 requested interviews with people in Congress about the issue. Thune responded with the following statement:

"In studying proposed new rules, regulators under Republican and Democratic administrations follow a process to identify potential unintended consequences and ensure that enhancements with the greatest impact for safety are prioritized. This evaluation is necessary and every year new road safety requirements take effect. I support NHTSA’s (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) efforts to examine and strengthen requirements for truck railer underride guards along with other technologies that can prevent accidents and save lives. There is always room for improvement and our road safety regulators should continue to look at technology, improved equipment, and crash data to improve road safety."

Nonetheless, the dogged determination of grieving families will be the foundation of achieving a desired change that will affect the Carolina and Florida coast, the Upper Midwest and beyond.


 

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