Lori Coble was taking her son, Kyle to the Irvine Spectrum for his birthday wish, his first ride on the Ferris wheel for his 5th birthday. On the drive home, His sister Emma, 4, and Katie, 2, his mom and grandmother were struck from the rear by a big-rig carrying 40,000 pounds of electronics. Within hours, the Coble family tragically lost all three children. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence.
According to the Truck Safety Coalition, www.trucksafety.org, more than 5,300 people are killed each year and over 10,000 are injured in truck-related crashes. The statistics are incredible. The number of deaths is equivalent to 26 fully- loaded airplanes falling from the sky each year.
The truck driver in this case, Jorge M. Romero, pleaded not guilty but was charged with three counts of vehicular manslaughter. According to the California Highway Patrol officials, they have determined that he was driving too fast, exceeding the speed limit of 55 mph for a big rig, plus following too close and was not paying attention to traffic conditions. Romero had been sighted previously both in 2002 and 2006 for speeding, driving without lights and driving on a suspended license. His commercial driver’s license has been revoked now.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has recently won a battle with the U.S. Court of appeals over the number of hours that truck drivers are permitted to drive without rest. The current Hours of Service (HOS) rule allows truckers to drive a maximum of 11 consecutive hours before a required rest period. Studies have shown that after 8 hours of continuous driving, crashes increase dramatically and even more sharply in the 10th and 11th hours of consecutive driving.
Routinely the average trucker can legally drive 77 hours in a 7 day period. With just a 34 hour break, they can start all over again. These totals are on average, twice the hours worked by a typical U.S. worker. There are really no checks and balances to keep our road safe. This is a huge, 623 billion dollar industry and many lobby groups want even more of an increase in drivable hours for truckers.
Since the House of Representatives recently passed, by an overwhelming margin, HR 1773, more trucks will now be on the road. This is the Safe American Roads Act of 2007 that will allow Mexico-domiciled trucks to travel throughout this country. According to CNN, Mexican truckers have even fewer HOS limits for their drivers. They have no random drug/alcohol screening and their drivers can drive up to 14-16 hours per day.
Chris and Lori Coble have now become involved with the Truck Safety Coalition which is a partnership between The Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT). The groups are lobbying for proposed trucker monitoring of GPS-type devices for truckers similar to those used in European countries. This has reduced truck–related injuries and deaths.
If you have been injured in a truck related incident or know someone who has, the support network within the coalition is there for you. It not only provides compassionate support through a survivor’s network, but in addition it educates the public and lobbies policy makers and media about truck safety issues.
Lastly, with all the Cobles have been through this year, there is a ray of shining hope for them. Just this week, they announced they are expecting triplets. Yes, two girls and boy! It will never make up for the children that they have lost, but the hope of a new family will help the healing move forward.