Steve and Susan Owings’ son, Cullum, was killed in 2002 while returning to college following a visit home for Thanksgiving. Cullum was stopped in an interstate traffic jam, when his car was crushed from behind by a speeding tractor-trailer going eight miles per hour over the posted speed limit using cruise control. As an outgrowth of their grief and in an attempt to realize something positive from this horrible tragedy, Susan and Steve founded Road Safe America.
Road Safe America has identified numerous changes, many already “rules of the road” in other leading countries, which will make our highways much safer. Our top priorities are as follows.
- Require all tractor-trailers made since 1992, when speed governors became standard on all of them, to set their top speed at 65 mph or lower. This will complement the recently required use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) to accurately track their driving time, hours of work, location, etc. These two policies will keep trucks from being driven by drowsy drivers and limit their speed so that they can be stopped, or nearly stopped safely, in an emergency situation.
- Change compensation for all truckers to allow them to earn a professional wage, commensurate with the responsibilities they shoulder, for all hours worked, regardless of whether their truck is moving, including overtime. They are currently exempt in the U.S. from overtime pay and a vast majority of truck drivers are paid by the mile.
- Increase minimum insurance requirements, which have not been changed even to reflect general inflation since they were originally set in 1980 at deregulation and have become woefully inadequate.
- Establish standardized training requirements so that all drivers are truly “professional” in their skill levels.
- Require the use of proven safety systems such as automatic emergency braking, electronic stability control, and lane departure warning.
- Only allow adaptable cruise control that has active braking.
- Intrastate truck drivers should have the same requirements as interstate, simplifying compliance and enforcement.
- Screen all tractor-trailers drivers for sleep apnea as part of their medical exams.
- Stop allowing truck drivers to drive while taking prescription opioid drugs that clearly say not to operate heavy machinery while taking the medication, even if given permission by their physician.