Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Giving Tuesday

In between the gratitude of Thanksgiving and the joyous giving of Christmas there is something called Giving Tuesday. It’s not as old a tradition as either of the two bigger holidays, but it’s intent is just as important to thousands of nonprofit groups around the world.

This year it’s tomorrow.

And, as some of you know, I’ve been volunteering with an organization called the Truck Safety Organization for almost 13 years, ever since dad was killed by a tired trucker in December of 2004.

Dad and me. We were both so young!

This year I’m fundraising for them. 2018 looks pretty challenging for us financially as well as legislatively. We’re spread very thin as we try to make the roads safer for everyone, including those driving trucks.

The Truck Safety Coalition is made up of two groups; Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH). If one group resonates more for you than the other, you can donate just to that one. Or you can donate to the Truck Safety Coalition and the money will be split between them.

So if you have a little bit to spare after your Black Friday and Cyber Monday stop by our website. There’s a Paypal button you can use. Or of course you can write a check. The address is 3100 Clarendon Blvd Suite #200, Arlington, VA 22201

And if you don’t get it done tomorrow on the official day…well…I’m OK with donations the rest of the week, and the rest of the year too.

A Christmas past. When we were all together.

This year we had 65 people attend our Sorrow to Strength conference, many of them new families. I can personally testify that grieving people need to spend time and talk and receive advice from other people who have been in their position. We’re the only group that provides that service and we want to be able to help more families next year. Because sadly there will be more families next year. It’s inevitable and we need to be there for them.

Every little bit helps, don’t think that your donation won’t make a difference. And either in the note section of Paypal or the memo line when writing a check, please note “Bill Badger” so they know your donation is in honor of my dad. That way I’ll know to say thank you for your help.

We all drive on our roads along side big trucks. Most of us have just been lucky not to be touched by tragedy. Help us help those families who haven’t been so lucky.

And thank you for listening to me when I get on my soapbox about trucks and legislation and technology and above all hope.

I miss you dad. Every single day.

Reading the Sunday comics after church.

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Washington in review

It was unexpected and unplanned, but our trip to Washington DC was important. I meant to write on Tuesday evening, after we watched the morning confirmation hearing on the nominated Administrator to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). But after the hearing we spent the afternoon in meetings with ours and other Senators offices and by the time we limped back to the hotel I was too tired to write.

And I meant to write about our experiences on Wednesday evening, and on Thursday night after our appointments on the Hill but each evening turned into a night of note writing from the day’s work and preparation for the day ahead. No time to write about the experience for you.

And now here it is Sunday night and the passion I felt during the week is ebbing and though I’m not as tired as I was, I somehow feel reluctant to try to capture it all, to put it down, because I don’t think I can make you understand just what it all means.

But I’ll try.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is a part of the Department of Transportation (DOT). It issues and enforces regulations that rule the way trucks move across the country. They set the hours that can be driven, monitor safety issues like sleep and the mechanics of the vehicles, and handle many other things. They are very important to our work at the Truck Safety Coalition.

After almost a year of this Administration an Administrator for the FMCSA has finally been nominated. We at the TSC wanted to hear what he had to say, so we attended the confirmation hearing. Mr. Martinez said a lot of the right things. He comes from New Jersey, heading their Department of Motor Vehicles. He doesn’t know anything about trucks, but he seems to be committed to safety. So I’m willing to give him a chance to show us with actions.

After the hearing my husband and I, along with a staff member of TSC, met with the transportation staff at each of my Senators’ offices. We talked about things that have been left hanging at the DOT since the beginning of the year, other things in the works that have been repealed by the current Administration.

The rest of the week was spent in a similar fashion, going from meeting to meeting in either Senate or House offices, looking for support of our safety causes. We talked about the successful side underride crash tests. We are looking for support of legislation to make underride guards mandated. And we found people that are interested in the developments. It’s progress.

At each meeting I pull out the picture of my dad, Bill, and the picture of what his car looked like after his crash. I look into dad’s eyes and silently promise him that we won’t give up. We won’t give up even though I’ve been making these trips to Washington D.C. for thirteen years. Sometimes multiple times a year. In one of our last meetings of this week I told the staffer that my dad comes with me on every trip to D.C. The staffer looked confused but dad and I smiled at each other.

My husband and I ate dinner one evening in the lower level of Union Station, near the Capital. Tired, and standing just outside the diner sliding out of my dress shoes and into my running shoes, feet aching, I noticed some signs just above the counter where people were enjoying their dinner.

“Excellent food.” ” Bill eats here.”

Yes, why yes he did. Because he’s always with me when I’m in D.C. And everywhere else too. We made some progress during this past week. We talked to lots of people, even some that are usually on the other side of our arguments. There’s interest in saving lives on both sides of the aisle.

Stay tuned. I’ll keep you apprised of developments. There may come a time when I’ll need you to call your Representative and/or Senator and ask for their support on proposed legislation. Meanwhile we’ll keep fighting the fight, talking about safety and trucks and our roads to everyone that will listen.

Dad was always all about safety. He still is. I guess I am too.


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Cookie memories

I was at the grocery store this week and saw these.

Instantly I was transported more than 50 years back to a time I was five years old.

Oh I know they didn’t have mini Nilla Wafers back in 1961. But they had the original, larger version. I remember the yellow box and the taste. And I remember walking with my dad as we set out on an adventure the afternoon before my first day of kindergarten. I suppose we had something to drink too, but I only remember eating the cookies as dad and I tromped along the route I’d be taking the next day, and each day after, during my first year of public school.

We lived just over one mile from the school and I had to cross two big streets. Or so my mom told me later, I don’t remember crossing any streets at all. I do remember being late to school one morning and being scolded by the crossing guard at the last corner before the school. I’d been playing in mud puddles along the way and lost track of time.

Mom said for years that she felt like a terrible mother making me walk all that way alone. But she had three more children at home, my sister aged three, my brother aged two and another brother just a few months old. Even if she could get all four of us bundled up to go out I don’t think she had a car. I only remember us having one car, and dad needed that to get to work.

I think about the stress of a young mother sending her child out into the world every day, worrying about her safety, no cell phones, no notice of whether or not I made it to school, no information at all until she saw me reappear in the afternoon. Kind of unimaginable.

Mom thought she was a terrible mother for a lot of things that she had no control over. I wonder if other mothers of that period felt the same way. I wonder if mothers today feel something similar too. Even with the technology available now.

I told her often, once I was an adult, that she wasn’t a terrible mother. I hope she believed me.

And I hope she knew how glad I was that she made dad and me that little snack to enjoy as we headed out on our adventure so many years ago. Nilla wafers. Lots of memories wrapped up in that little package on the grocery store shelf.

Yep. I bought the package and enjoyed a few of the familiar sweets on my drive home.


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This didn’t have to happen

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.


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Cee’s Black & White Challenge: All Things Farm Related

My mom grew up on a farm and I’ve been back to visit only a couple of times in many years.

Some of the barns on the farm where my mother grew up.

The farm remains in the family, and the current owner, my cousin, takes remarkable care of all the buildings.

Corn crib with tractors.

I remember spending time on the farm when I was a young kid. Exploring the barns, hanging out in the corn crib. Riding the tractors with my uncle.

Antique tractor.

Tools still hang in my grandfather’s shop. I never spent any time there, we were forbidden from exploring it, and it seemed kind of scary.

Tools hanging where grandpa or uncle left them decades ago.

The farm is a special place and I’m glad it’s still in the family, though it’s a huge responsibility and a lot of work to take care of it.

Time keeps rolling along.

I miss so many people that used to work or live on the farm. Sometimes I think I can see them just around that next barn corner.

Which way did they go?


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Happy anniversary

Happy 65th wedding anniversary to mom and dad in heaven.

This is one of those ‘big’ anniversaries that we should be celebrating, but I couldn’t figure out how to book a hall up there for a big party.

We’ll have to be content with just thinking about and missing you like we have every single day for the past thirteen years.

I hope they have cake up there, and ice cream. And flowers, lots of lots of flowers. Music would be good too. I suppose that’s all there, I mean how could it be heaven without ice cream, but we wish you were here with us instead.

That’s not the way it worked out and we all know that life isn’t always fair.

So Happy Anniversary in heaven; eat some cake for us. We’ll see you both again someday.


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102 today

I can’t imagine what it’s like to turn 102. But I’ve been watching and I can tell you it isn’t easy. It’s not romantic and it’s not fun.

Most of all it’s lonely.

My husband’s aunt turns 102 today, though we had a little birthday party yesterday in her room. She ate a couple of bites of cake and peered at the birthday cards through faded eyes.

She was glad for the company, and we were glad to spend some time with her.

Aunt Vi and her cake.

Most of the time when you sing Happy Birthday you wish the recipient many more years, but that’s not what I wish for Aunt Vi now. For her I wish a smooth transition to her next chapter, one without fear or pain. I wish that she be allowed to drift away feeling unfettered, free of regrets, joyful in a life well lived.

And for today I wish peace to the 102 year old birthday girl.

Celebrating.


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When a crash is not just a crash

Middle picture is without the guard, and below that, with a guard.


The purpose for our current road trip happened last Tuesday. We and other members of the Truck Safety Coalition family attended a conference to discuss car and truck crashes, specifically the situation when a car slides under the trailer of a semi truck from the side.

This is what happens when a car goes under a trailer. Imagine being in the car with your family.

That’s called a side underride and it’s usually deadly.

When you slide under a trailer your car’s safety features aren’t activated because your front bumper doesn’t hit anything. The first part of your car to come in contact with the trailer is your windshield. And then your head.

This car was driven into a trailer at 35 mpr. The trailer had a side guard.

It’s been a problem for years. Jennifer’s dad was killed when his car slid all the way under a trailer on a dark country road more than thirty years ago and she’s been fighting this and other truck safety issues ever since.

Jennifer talking about her dad’s crash and how grateful she is that side underride is being talked about today.

But in this past year a solution has been developed. And it happened because people began to talk about the issue. Last year was the first conference on underride, and there the inventor of a side guard and a manufacturer happened to meet. They’ve been collaborating ever since, and at this year’s conference we got to witness their side guard in action.

Conference members wait above the test crash area to see if the side guard works.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hosted our meeting, and did a test crash so that we could see what would happen. (Click the ‘meeting’ link above to see the crash test yourself.) The car was driven at 40 mpr into the side of a trailer with a side guard, named Angel Wing, installed behind the wind flow shield.

Waiting in anticipation.

The car did not slide under the trailer. Though the trailer itself was moved several inches, the passenger compartment of the car was not penetrated.

Tears and applause.

The driver of this vehicle probably would have had a wrist injury, probably a headache, and bruises from the seat belt, but would have walked away.

This driver would have walked away.

Members of our truck safety family, there to witness this test, cried softly after. Unspoken was the knowledge that if something like this had been installed on trucks years ago they wouldn’t have been in Virginia this week, standing up on a platform, watching hope unfold.

Hope.

We have hope that someday, maybe sooner than we imagine, you’ll see Angel Wings, or some iteration of it, moving down the highway near you. We have hope that someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, a family will only have to deal with bumps and bruises, and not a funeral.

Side guards will save lives.

Someday soon the results of lots of peoples dreams will come to fruition. And it will happen because people from all walks of life sat down and talked. Trailer manufacturers, truck companies, safety experts, devastated families, government officials.

Two grief stricken mothers, working together to save other lives.

Everyone has a different viewpoint, but together an answer can be found. Truck crashes happen to all sorts of people and it takes all sorts of people to find a way to fix the problem.

All families matter.

Someday another mother will be holding her child, alive and safe. She might not know who to thank. But I, and now you, do.

Stay tuned. And stay safe.

Be vigilant. And please support our efforts.


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For those of you wondering about the previous post…

This is a 1950s Chevy that was used during a test crash at the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. It’s on display in their building.

Remember the big front engine hoods and grills?

It wasn’t the car we test crashed while we were here, that was a 2010 Chevy Malibu. But I thought this old tank of a car was interesting.

Here’s the inside of it. Notice the steering wheel would have been pushed right into the driver’s face and chest.

Remember these big old steering wheels?

I’ll write more about our experience at the IIHS soon. It’s pretty emotional, in a good and also a sad way.

Meanwhile, stay safe!