By Marianne Karth
AnnaLeah was a particularly avid reader with a colorful imagination. She had a myriad ideas written down on random pieces of paper tucked into drawers, filling notebooks, or emailed to herself. She had, in fact, already created in her own mind numerous literary worlds peopled by characters with names and personalities.
One Saturday morning, AnnaLeah, who was just two weeks short of her 18th birthday, got on the road with her younger sister and brother — headed from North Carolina back to their former home in Texas. With their mom driving, the three were excited to be joining up with their dad and six older siblings to celebrate four college graduations and their oldest sister’s wedding.
All of their hopes and dreams came to a screeching halt when a truck failed to slow down, hit their car, and sent them backwards into the rear of a tractor trailer. The rear underride guard came off the truck and the car slid underneath. AnnaLeah, in the back seat had the breath of life knocked out of her — killed by blunt force trauma and mechanical asphyxia. Her thirteen year-old sister Mary suffered life-threatening injuries and died a few days later in a hospital.
Any road fatality is tragic. This was all the more so. The girls’ mother and brother in the front seat were spared such catastrophic injuries because their part of the car did not go under the truck. This wretched circumstance gets played out over and over on our roads — some live, some die all depending on where they’re sitting in the car. It’s called truck underride.
How could this be? Well, the basic problem is that there is a geometric mismatch between trucks and cars. The bottom of a truck floor is generally around 41 inches. In contrast, the bumper of a passenger vehicle is closer to 36 inches. When there is a collision between the two, the smaller vehicle easily slides under the truck and the first point of impact is at the windshield, which, of course, is not built to stop a truck.
What occurs next is too horrible to even imagine ever happening to someone you love. The truck enters the car and there is NOTHING to protect the occupants. None of the car’s crashworthy features — crumple zone, airbags, seat belt tensioners — are triggered. The people inside the car are left vulnerable. Who could survive such a thing?
It could all be prevented if the federal government would tell the trucking industry: You must install equipment on all of your trucks to prevent underride. In fact, Congress can make this happen by passing the STOP Underrides! Bill. Truck crashes will then become more survivable. Families will no longer face unimaginable grief due to this preventable problem.
But that hasn’t come about yet. What happened to Mary and AnnaLeah will be the reality for too many others. Grief will fill countless hearts with love that has no place to go.
AnnaLeah’s stories will never be written for us to read. Her laughter will never be heard again. Who she was and what was in store for her has ceased to be. It is more than I can fathom.
Her mom, Marianne Karth
October 22, 2019
© 2019 Marianne Karth
Mother of nine children — each with their own unique set of gifts and passions. Problem-solver. Vision-caster. Wordsmith. Unexpected advocate for underride victims. Lover of nature, beauty, song, belly laughs, simple creative efforts, shadows & reflections, and Abba Father, God Almighty, Son of God, Blessed Comforter.
Marianne’s ever-creative daughter loved ideas and stories. She especially wanted to encourage others, like her niece and nephew, to be well-read. Books were her passion. What books might AnnaLeah have added to her booklist if she had had the chance?
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