Washington lawmakers are poised to relax U.S. trucker safety rules, but a North Texas woman whose two sisters were killed last year when an 18-wheeler hit the car they were in says her family is fighting the changes.
One of the most controversial topics in the trucking business is the number of truck hours drivers spend behind the wheel. Long-haul truckers often work double the hours of an average person, and there are concerns about the ensuing fatigue leading to an increase in crashes.
Rebekah Karth Black's younger sisters, 17-year-old AnnaLeah and 13-year-old Mary, were on their way to see Rebekah graduate at the University of Texas Arlington when an 18-wheeler veered out of its lane on a Georgia highway, hitting the car driven by Rebekah's mother, Marianne.
Since the accident last May, Marianne and her husband, Jerry, have become activists for truck safety.
“My parents are very much about trying to take the positive out of the situation instead of focusing on the negative,” said Rebekah. “So they said, ‘Well, we can't go back in time and save AnnaLeah and Mary, but we can move forward now and try to make positive changes for other people in the future so other people won't have to deal with that.’”
The investigation revealed that among other things, the driver who hit the Karths was suffering from fatigue -- something police say can be just as dangerous as drunken driving.
“I think that driving while you’re fatigued will cause your reaction time is slower, especially if a driver actually falls asleep, he or she may not be able to react,” said Officer Robert Mills with the Fort Worth Police Traffic Enforcement Unit.
Earlier this year, the Karth family went to Washington, D.C.to push for tougher safety rules and to keep Congress from reversing a rule that limits the number of hours truckers can driver per week.
“There's efforts in Congress right now to roll that back to what the hours were previously, which would give drivers the opportunity to work over 80 hours a week, versus the current rule, which is 70 hours a week,” said Officer Mills.
“It is very discouraging to see how the trucking industry is pushing back against some of this,” said Rebekah.
The U.S. House and Senate are both preparing to vote whether to change rules on truckers' work hours. The Karths say they'll continue to push for stricter safety standards to honor the memories of AnnaLeah and Mary.
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