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Preventing Distracted Driving: Navigating Towards Safer Roads for All with Karen Torres

Preventing Distracted Driving: Navigating Towards Safer Roads for All with Karen Torres

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In recognition of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we are honored to welcome Karen Torres to The Safety Guru, where she will share her heartfelt story of turning personal tragedy into impactful change. Karen became committed to advocating for road safety after losing her father in a distracted driving incident. She has devoted her life to raising awareness about work zone safety and the dangers and realities of distracted driving that affect us all. Tune in as Karen advocates for safer roads for all through education, situational awareness, and being an effective role model.

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Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and well-being of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost. For the C suite, it’s a real topic of daily focus. This is the safety guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized ops and safety guru, public speaker, and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now.

Hi, and welcome to the safety guru. Today I’m very excited to have with me Karen Taurus. She’s the founder of All for You Dad and a safety motivational speaker on roadside safety. So, as we’re entering April’s distracted driving awareness month, I think this is a topic of conversation. So, Karen, welcome to the show. Really excited to have you with me.

Oh, thank you so much, Eric. I’m really excited to be here.

So, let’s start with your dad’s story.

Okay. On St. Patrick’s Day of 2006, my father, who worked for the New York State Department of Transportation, was with his crew on Sunrise Highway in Eastport, Long Island. They were filling in potholes, and a cement truck driver had entered the work zone. Not only was he speeding, but he was also doing 60 in a 45-mile-per-hour zone. He was just drinking a bottle of water, and the bottle had slipped out of his hands, so he reached down to pick it up. But when he had reached down to pick it up, not only did he take his eyes off the road, but he had pulled the steering wheel down with him. And by the time he looked back up, he had crossed over the closed lane, and he had slammed it into the work zone. And that’s where he hit and killed my father, Patrick Mapleson. Since my father’s death, I have turned my tragedy into something positive. And I felt it was really important to talk about work zone safety and the dangers of distracted driving. When my father was killed, texting was really just kind of the upcoming thing. And it’s funny because I never wanted to be a public speaker.

I hated public speaking growing up. I’d rather have failed a class than speak in front of people. And when you get this desire to share a story, knowing that you could possibly save a life, it’s amazing what you can overcome. At my first presentation, my knees knocked, and now I could speak in front of 1000 people. And it’s amazing that turning a tragedy into something that is, for me, so powerful.

Right? Distracting driving is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. You talked about cell phone use now. The number of times I’m on the interstate, and I see somebody texting as they’re driving. It’s scary. But in this case, it was just a bottle of water. And there was no intention. Right. Tell me a little bit about what had happened. Obviously, he was days away from what I remember from his retirement.

So, my dad had just turned 66 the day before. He was getting ready to retire in seven months. And I think about that. That was all taken away from him because of a distracted driver. And yes, this was not intentional, but people really need to understand that it was 100% preventable. No one thinks that. Okay, I will take my eyes off the road for 2 seconds to do something. I’m going to kill someone. But this is exactly what’s happening. My dad lost his life in such a horrific way. I was told that actually the driver of the cement truck told me that when he looked up, my dad was standing there right in front of him. And they locked eyes. And then my dad stopped, tried to shield himself from the impact. And he was first hit his head hit the bumper. And then he was run over and went up through the wheel well. He was thrown in the air like a rag doll. And the passerby said they saw a man literally tossing in the air like a rag doll. And when my dad landed, he was completely disfigured from the top of his head to the tip of his toes.

And they wouldn’t let family members. I’m sorry, they wouldn’t let me, my brother or my sister id him. So, my husband had to do it. And he said by doing that, his mind has been forever fractured. And I don’t think that many people realize how much it destroys a family. It’s not just about the one person who was killed. Some of my dad’s crew, some of these men, couldn’t return to work for months. Even the driver of the cement truck had a nervous breakdown. He was not a young, inexperienced driver. He was a retired New York City fireman. He spent his entire career saving lives. And that poor choice he made that morning, he has to live with the fact that he killed my dad. And he didn’t mean to do it, but that’s suffering for him. He told me that my father’s face was the first person he saw when he woke up. And the last person he sees before he goes to bed. So, we all know that prison sentence is in his mind. Nobody ever wants to live with something like that. And, yeah, my dad was.

His golden years were taken away from him, and he was such a simple man. And all my dad ever wanted to do when he retired was get a little shack by the water so he could fish and read, and all his grandkids called him Grandpa Fish. And it is. It’s really sad. And I always say that it doesn’t matter how much time goes by, and you’ll always still want the love and the guidance of your parents. And it’s just sad that he worked so hard his whole life for those golden years, and he was robbed of it.

And distracted driving is, to me, and roadside safety is probably what scares me the most because it’s really hard to protect workers on the side of the road you get accustomed to. I’ve talked to many people who work on the side of the road, and they get comfortable with traffic so close to them. And they’ve got cones, in many cases, as the defense mechanism or maybe a little more. And you’re relying on other people that, in this case, weren’t focused on driving.

I never knew how dangerous my dad’s job was. He kind of shielded that from us. And with the newer laws of slowing down in work zones, and there are now speed cameras, I know that people get upset, but you have to think, this is their office, roadside workers, this is their office. This is what they’re doing. And I don’t understand why we’re not giving them the respect they deserve. They put their lives on the line every day so that the roads are better and safer for us. So why wouldn’t we give them the same respect by slowing down and moving over?

The part that frustrates me is often you’ll see people maybe go a little over the speed limit in a regular zone, and then in the working zone, I’ve seen so many times, people barely slow down. It’s almost an inconvenience for them to slow down, not even thinking about people on the side of the road.

Right. They dehumanize them. They’re frustrated because they’re the ones that are slowing them down. Because it’s a construction zone. A zone, excuse me. But meanwhile, like I had just said, they’re there because they’re repairing the roads to make it safer for us. It’s really sad.

How do we make a difference in this? How do we make a difference in workplaces that where people have to work on the side of the road, and that includes first responders, includes utility workers, in many cases, includes anybody that’s maintaining roads. How do we make that workplace safer, and how do we get people focused on driving?

Well, of course, education and speaking. I mean, for me, going and sharing a personal story, I feel has a huge impact. It’s almost like we got to bring it back to basics. Distracted driving can affect anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or if you’re 86, if you’re a blue-collar worker, if you’re a white-collar worker, it can affect everyone. And I think that it’s time that we stop and think. Because for me, my feeling is a lot of drivers that once become driving a longer period of time, become a little lax, and get too comfortable. And people forget that there’s laws and there’s so much technology inside the car that you forget right outside your windshield, there’s highway workers, there are other drivers, there’s bicyclists, there’s motorcyclists, there are people who are exercising. There are kids that are playing. And in an instant, you could take someone’s life away. Now, what’s happening is that you have your children in the car, and they mirror our behavior. And now you’re going to set up a new generation of distracted drivers. I just think the key is really education.

This episode of the Safety Guru podcast is brought to you by Propulo Consulting, the leading safety and safety culture advisory firm. Whether you are looking to assess your safety culture, develop strategies to level up your safety performance, introduce human performance capabilities, re-energize your BBS program, enhance supervisory safety capabilities, or introduce unique safety leadership training and talent solutions. Propulo has you covered. Visit us www.propulo.com.

You touched on something there that I think is worth double-clicking on a little bit. It’s around role modeling. When you’re in a car, if you have kids, they’re watching you. They’re seeing what you’re doing when you’re driving. Right? So, I think that’s also a really important piece; it is something we can impact. We can make a difference in terms of how we show up and how we role-play a role model on something like this.

Absolutely. When I do an assembly at a high school, the first question I ask the students is: How many of you have been in the car with a friend who has been using their phone in any capacity besides Bluetooth? And at least 85% of the room raises their hand. And then I ask the same question: how many of your parents use their phones, and everybody raises their hand? And it is sad because shame on us. Our kids are in our driving school, really, for the first 16 years of their life. So, if you’re using your phone when you’re driving, how can you ever expect them not to?

Right?

We don’t realize how much we mirror our parents. I was at fault. I was teaching my oldest daughter to drive, and a stop sign was near my house. And she drove to the stop sign. She slowed down, and then she turned left. And I said, Lex, what did you do when you didn’t stop? And she looked me dead and said, oh, it’s not what you do. For years, I was driving to this Estopinal stop sign and just slowing down and turning, and she completely mirrored my behavior. So again, if I was using my phone while driving, how could I ever expect my kids not to? And it goes with everything. If there’s road rage, if you’re a road ranger, the same thing. Your kids are going to be road rangers. And it’s sad. And I say to the students, if you knew getting into your friend’s car that you were about to drive to your death, would you ever get in that car? And, of course, not. But these are the chances that you’re taking. Honestly, with kids, it’s about speaking up, peer influence, being a positive role model for you and your friends, and not using their phone or taking their phone from the driving person.

I know it’s hard to do, but it’s the only way things will stop. And many times, I think the students don’t feel that, like, oh, we don’t text and drive, but you know what? You’re scrolling through social media, or you’re making a video when you’re driving, and it’s the same thing, and it’s just sad. And again, no one ever thinks it’s not until something happens. And why will you wait for something to happen for you to change your behavior? You don’t ever want to be responsible for someone else’s death over something that is 100% preventable.

100% preventable. Even a Bluetooth piece you talked about, even on Bluetooth, still introduces a level of distraction.

Absolutely.

A lot of the research is showing that it creates an impairment that’s very similar to an alcohol impairment in terms of when you’re driving. I’ve made a conscious decision not to take calls while I’m driving. I ensure my wife is driving if I need to take a call or if she’s not driving with me. Then I’m on the side of the road. Something as simple as that. It’s not easy, it’s painful. It introduces more time in your day. But it makes a difference.

It does. If you think you could be, let’s just say you’re driving and you’re having a conversation on Bluetooth and you’re in a heated conversation, or you’re fighting with your spouse or your children, you really aren’t fully paying attention. You’re focusing on winning that fight. Right. So you could miss your exit. You could be trying to move over, and you’re in your blind spot and weren’t paying attention. And you can easily hit someone. People don’t think of those things. But this is truly what’s happening.

And I think that’s something. We owe everybody who’s working the side of the road, but we also owe to ourselves because it’s how we are aware and have situational awareness of what other drivers are doing. If somebody is veering off, it’s also ensuring we stay safe.

That’s right. Absolutely. Situational awareness is key. It really is. It’s for everyone. The driver, the passenger, people who are on the, exactly like you said, workers. It’s always looking at your surroundings and being ready, being prepared. You just never know.

You never know. And it can happen to the best of drivers. I’m sure he thought he was a good driver. I mean, you said he retired from the New York Fire Department. Probably an experienced driver by design, but it can happen to anyone.

Absolutely. And he was devastated. I mean, it destroyed his life. He was a father of six. It took us four years for us to be allowed to speak with him. But I saw him, and he came over to me and he just said, I’m so sorry. And I gave him a hug, and I said to him, I don’t hate you. And he cried and cried and cried and said, you don’t hate me. I said I don’t hate you. I know you didn’t wake up and say, I’m going to kill Patrick Mapleson. This knows. I know it was something that you didn’t know was going to happen. And I think that my brother, my sister, and I were able to free him of that, at least. And he left a message. He would always leave a message on the anniversary of my dad’s death just to let us know he was thinking about us. And not a lot of families get that. Not a lot of families get it. I’m sorry.

I think you speak to a lot of audiences, you speak to students, to kids that are starting to drive, to try to shape the right behavior of the front end, to organizations. I think this is something that needs to be addressed in terms of awareness. Like you said, education for drivers to realize how do I need to show up? But also, for organizations that have workers that are on the side of the road.

Absolutely.

It’s a serious hazard. It’s one of the hardest one to control. You can control a lot of other forms of energy, a lot of other risks. This one especially, I guess you can if you block the road and you shut down the road. But there’s a lot more risks that tend to happen. And people get comfortable, surprisingly, with the degree of risk that’s associated with it.

They do as you’re just asking that. I’m just thinking in my head that it’s just so sad when I’m driving, going through a work zone, and I see people speeding through, and they’re just right at the edge of the road. It’s just sad because everybody wants to go home. Everybody just wants to come home, and they are just inches away from not coming home. And why aren’t we giving them the respect? But you know what? It also goes both ways. If you’re a worker, how do you drive on the road? That’s what I try to explain in my presentation: it’s, again, going back to the basics. Safety isn’t just nine to five. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they must also show respect to the roadway. How do you drive? Are you that driver who gets to a red light and the person in front of you is on their phone, and the light turns green, and they’re not moving, and now you’re angry, and you’re like, come on? But then a mile down the street, now you’re that front car, and now you’re on your phone.  

You can’t have it both ways. So why can’t we all just respect each other, and all just do the right thing? Why is something so simple so hard?

Yeah, exactly. So, thank you for sharing your story with people and trying to get some awareness, both from an educational standpoint for drivers and organizations, in terms of the risk and the hazards associated with working on the side of the road. I think it’s a very powerful way to get people to stop thinking. And I encourage everybody that’s listening to really think about how do you show up when you’re on the road? How do you show up when there’s a work zone, or there is a first responder on the side of the road that is doing the work? How do you show up in those instances to protect them? And like you mentioned before, in terms of role modeling that behavior for others in the car. So, if somebody wants to get in touch with you, Karen, how can they get in touch with you?

Oh, great. My website is all4udad.com, but it’s spelled A-L-L, the number four, the letter u, dad. And yeah, you could reach me there. My email is [email protected], and I would love to hear from anyone.

Thank you so much, Karen. I appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your story.

Thank you so much. You have a great day. Stay safe.

Thank you. Stay safe.

Thank you for listening to The Safety Guru on C-suite Radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the past. Grow your success. Capture the hearts and minds of your teams. Elevate your safety. Like every successful athlete, top leaders continuously invest in their safety leadership with an expert coach to boost safety performance. Begin your journey at execsafetycoach.com. Come back in two weeks for the next episode with your host, Eric Michrowski. This podcast is powered by Propulo Consulting.  

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Karen Torres is a passionate advocate for road safety with over 14 years of experience as a motivational speaker. Her commitment to raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving stems from a personal tragedy — the loss of her father, Patrick Mapleson, in a distracted driving incident. Karen has turned her pain into purpose, dedicating her life to sharing her compelling story at high schools, employee safety trainings, and corporate conferences across the nation. Karen is also a member of the Speaker’s Bureau for NY SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions); she provides impactful presentations that aim to inspire positive change and save lives. Karen’s message is not just powerful; it’s transformative, leaving a lasting impact on audiences of all ages.

For more information: https://www.all4udad.com/

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Distracted Driving: Making our Roads Safer with Brian Kuebler, Author of The Long Blink

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October is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. What better introduction to an excellent conversation with Emmy Award-winning journalist and author of The Long Blink, Brian Kuebler, who exposes the staggering cost of the American trucking industry’s rising crash rate through the intimate struggle of Ed Slattery, who is left to piece his family back together after a trucker fell asleep at the wheel and killed his wife and maimed his son. He brings awareness to the critical importance of safety on the roads and the role that the trucking industry can play to improve safety as we explore the rapidly growing dangers we all face from the passing lane each and every day.

For Distracted Driving Infographics: https://www.propulo.com/infographics/

READ THIS EPISODE

Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams; their origin story puts the safety and well-being of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe, yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-Suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is The Safety Guru with your host Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops and The Safety Guru public speaker and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now. Hi and welcome to The Safety Guru. Today I’m very excited to have with me Brian Kuebler, who is an investigative journalist who’s also written a very interesting book that’s worth picking up and reading The Long Blink. So, he’s here to share a little bit more about the story. And it’s just a very sad story about a trucking accident that reveals a lot of information he this month, because as you’re probably aware, this is the Distracted Driving Awareness Month. So, Brian, welcome to the show. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it. So maybe if you could share to start out a little bit about how you came to know about slavery and a little bit about his story and how that came about in terms of your interest in what you would discover there. Sure. This this this crash happened 10 years ago in 2010. And at the time, I was an investigative reporter for the ABC affiliate in Baltimore, Maryland, and is living in the suburbs of Baltimore. It was it was a big story here when the when the crash happened because his wife, Susan Slattery, was it was a very well-known and very well-loved professor at the Stevenson University here in Baltimore, mathematics professor, a brilliant mathematical mind on the track to become Dean and so on. And so, when the when the crash happened, it was it was a huge outpouring here in Baltimore, made it a big news story. Then the crash happened in Ohio. Susan Slattery took her two boys and couldn’t go along because she had to work. He was working as an economist at the USDA. And so, the family went to Susan’s family reunion over in Lorain, Ohio, in the Cleveland area. So after about a couple of days there, she and her two boys were driving back to Baltimore, and that is when the crash happened and it immediately killed her and it permanently disabled and named their youngest child, their oldest child. Peter suffered a lot of very physical injuries, but he was able to make a full recovery. Matthew, to this day, still wheelchair bound and has a traumatic brain injury that filled it with the rest of his life so that, yeah, when that story happened, it was those families that that are that are very well known in a community where no matter how big of a city or small town you live. And they were involved in Boy Scouts. Susan had a bit a lot of extracurricular activities with different fundraisers and stuff, you know, and was an economist, the USDA, they were very well-loved family in the area. So, when the crash happened, my boss at the time approached me to ask me to do the story on it. And in full disclosure, I was and I am a Chronicle sports guy, you know, of a gritty kind of crime reporter in a gritty crime city. So that that was this wasn’t really on my radar. But my boss at the time believed that I was the right storyteller for it. And so, I you know, I met Ed over the phone at first. You know, they were you know, they spent about a month in Cleveland and the family had just gotten back to Baltimore at the time that I hooked up with them. And Matthew was going through intensive physical therapy at Kennedy Krieger Institute here in Baltimore, which is partnering with Johns Hopkins. And you’re listening right now. And that’s where I met the family. And we kind of started our journey from that point. And that was my first long interview with Ed, where I really began to realize kind of what this family had gone through. And then I had followed them over the course of the next few years to tell their story through the different chapters. And eventually, you know, Ed said to me, hey, I want you to write a book because I really want my story out there. Right. And then we kind of came together on that. And the long link is the is the product of that came out late last year. And so. Yeah. And so, this is a story out there. And he wanted it to be out there as kind of a book to show people what can happen on the roadways with large trucks and kind of, you know, where you go from there as a family. And so, it’s phenomenal. And I think the part that really touched me is how and correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like that is decided to really do something with the tragic events and try to make permanent change in and around road safety, around accidents. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? Because that’s a theme. This is one incident, but there’s so many other cases of significant accidents that kill people on a regular basis on the roads. So, if you can maybe share a little bit about how he’s gone into that space, what he’s trying to do, and maybe some learning, some from that front. Sure, sure. Listen, as a journalist, you know, there are very few times in my career where, you know, I have met somebody or have told somebody a story where that person has the internal fortitude and the strength to take this trauma that has happened to them, turn it on its head and use it for good. And, you know, it’s so it’s so rare. I mean, a lesser man like myself, if this happened to me and my family, I would crawl up in a ball. And I don’t I don’t know what I would do. You know, right from the very first moment I met him, he was looking through the trauma on the other side of how can I make this? So, it doesn’t happen to other people. I mean, I listen for this book and I wrote it in a very narrative way. This isn’t prescriptive nonfiction where you’re reading fact after fact after fact. Right. I mean, this is a real story to tell, because it is one of those people that we develop, obviously a friendship over the last 10 years. It’s just it’s one of these people that that I find remarkable. And he’s a he’s a good man. And you could tell a story through his perspective. And allowing me in this whole time is really able to narratively build this so that my point was to write it to a reader kind of falls in love with it or identifies with it, and along the way learns, you know what, this what this issue is. This is at its core, this book is about surviving trauma, losing the love of your life, raising two boys who you know will never be the same again. And then finally and then finding like that forgiveness and a purpose to create that new life for your family. And that’s what this book is really about. And in order to do that and really, you know, once you got past the I mean, he’s still alive today. He hasn’t been able to really mourn Susan because of all the work he’s done since the crash, I’m sure. But, you know, he once he got past his immediate health crisis and Peter’s immediate health crisis and building a home that is now, you know, it’s a universally designed for Matthew’s wheelchair. So, there are no impediments for him. And, you know, kitchens that the cabinets come down to his level with the stove top comes down the level. There are no the rugs or something. So, there’s no lifts in the house. There are pocket doors out. It’s a beautiful home that he you know, he took some of the money from the settlement and built this this beautifully, universally designed home. So, Matthew will be set for the rest of his life. And so, once you get past all of those chapters, he really started getting involved in the Truck Safety Coalition, which is an advocacy group on Capitol Hill, that that at least once a year doesn’t very hard lobby like to use the word lobby. But advocating for truck safety in the halls of Congress has told countless representatives and senators all the ones in Maryland obviously are super familiar with the story. One of the one of the one of the one of the quotes for the book, it was from Dutch Ruppersberger, who’s a congressman from Maryland. So, I mean, these are some of the lawmakers that he has, he has identified with. And they will sit in their office and tell his story because he knows that if it’s told the right way, it can change minds. And so, he lends his story and his pain and his trauma. He wears it on his sleeve so other people hopefully won’t have to. And, you know, he’s very involved in that. In fact, he’s even calls victims of truck accidents after they happen to the family, surviving family members to tell them what they need to do next to the super involved and how his daughter, his oldest daughter, is involved, too. She’s on that coalition now on the board, and she does a lot of work for them as well. So, it’s definitely a family affair. It was a phenomenal story. Can you touch a little bit, particularly as we’re kind of thinking about distracted driving, this wasn’t really a distracted driving, is somebody, as I as I recall, that kind of dozed off? Can you share maybe a little bit about the case for safety in the trucking industry? Because that’s an industry that, unlike a lot of other industries that struggle in many ways in terms of how do you drive safety truly into how we operate? A lot of organizations have subcontracted work to a point where they’re removing a lot of the responsibility for some of the elements. Tell me a little bit about what is the case for safety in the space. Well, fatigue is a form of distracted driving, and so that’s why it applies to this month as well. And what we’re talking about, I mean, the truck driver here. So just a quick rundown. You know, most tractor trailers that your listeners will see, it’s a one you know, just one tractor trailer going down the road. Right. Some of them double will be hitched to there’ll be there’ll be the two sections to it. Right. And in some states, there are you could have you could have three trailers to one truck. And all of those states are Ohio. And it’s surrounded by states that are not that don’t allow those trucks. So, in order to maximize volume, these trucking companies will trucker that they hire will go to the edge of the state on the east side, pick up a third trailer, drive it across the length of Ohio, drop off that trailer on the on the west side, and then pick up another one and drive it back east. But that’s what this particular driver did every day. That was his route to pick it up and drive across the state of Ohio, pick up, drop it off, pick up another shift, three Ops, they call them and drive them all the way back to the other side. And so, when he got into the crash with Susan, he was toward the end of his drive time. So, this is not an example of a trucker that is fired his books, although that happens or is driving over the limit because obviously that happens as well. This was an incident where he was on his first what they call first night back. So, if you if you have a schedule and you’re working five days a week, by the second day, you’re adjusted to it and your kind of sleeping in a certain pattern and so on and so forth. But on the Sunday night into Monday, your first night back to your shift, obviously these drivers want to spend and maximize time with their family. This particular driver had a farm, a lot of work to do on the farm. And so, he’s spending Saturday and Sunday. So, when he goes to bed on Sunday, you know, you don’t get that full night’s sleep before you your back and you’re at work. So, I mean, he even admitted in all the paperwork in the clip and the crash reports, he only got about three and a half hours of sleep. So that first night back is always very tough. And that’s a big issue with the safety community around trucking in the United States is that first night back on a shift and that’s when this happened. And so, while he was in his drive time limit, he was still only operating on a few hours of sleep. It also come out in the settlement in the court case that he was on a various number of narcotics that have side effects that could lead to drowsiness and drag out a while. And he had a driving record that was that was suspect as well. So, all of this kind of combined into him and him and he a bit of this on the scene that that he dozed off and Susan’s car was merging for construction on the Ohio interstate. And he fell asleep, blew past the signs and, you know, read the book. There’s a whole chapter about what the other witnesses had said, what it looked like, what it felt like, what it sounded like. And it it was it was a horrific and violent crash. And he squares up, hit Susan. And it is amazing that Matthew survived that crash. Susan had almost an impact, or at least I’d like to hope it was on impact anyway, that she didn’t suffer for hours or so on. But it was just a tough, horrible crash. And so, when you’re talking about distracted driving and you’re talking about this issue, there’s a lot of issues in the trucking industry that that that safety advocates are pushing for a lot of different not laws, but the regulations and different technologies that can keep that can keep drivers driving without the fatigue issue being such a such an impediment. I mean, there’s been a study done for upwards of 30 percent of drivers reported fatigue in their careers. And so, it’s a real and the more trucks that are on the road, the more stuff that we’re relying on our packages from Amazon, or especially now when we’re when everything is getting delivered to us. There is this industry is exploding and there’s, you know, and is on the front lines and it’s going this is what happened to me. This is what happened to my family. It happened quite literally. And during a long blink is what is what this guy, this driver had. It was later what he thought it was. And this and it can ruin your entire family. And so, this is kind of what he’s trying to put out there with the storytelling. Phenomenal story, and this is an industry that is highly with a lot of players in it. How do we drive change in an industry of that nature? Because when you’re dealing with oil and gas, for example, there’s a couple of companies that control the vast majority of the work. How do you do it in an environment like this? What’s been his experience to bring success around safer roads essentially for everyone? Right. So, it is important to say that there are some very good trucking companies out there that are adopting the latest technologies like what you would get in a new car without even asking for the you know, it’s involved in the package of a new car. You buy the delayed, delayed avoidance system, the automatic braking, all that kind of stuff, you know, is in trucks now, too. And a lot of a lot of the cutting-edge companies, these big massive companies you want to avoid the liability of fatigue, are loading their trucks with that. But there are some there are so many companies that don’t that don’t abide by that as well. So, there is the capitalistic argument that like, hey, you want to avoid spending. I mean, any settlement. Got his family forty point eight dollars million from the Express Lines, which is one of the largest trucking companies in the country. And that was the largest settlement on record at that point. So, they call that a massive mega settlement. And so, I don’t think that it’s been top since. But, you know, you want to avoid paying out that kind of money. So, you know, a lot of these companies will adopt these of these safety regulations by themselves. But, you know, capitalism can also push toward the toward the idea of making more money. You know, that’s kind of how our system is built. Right. So, I mean, most long-haul truckers are paid by the mile. And that’s a problem of many safety advocates say, because you’re going to drive longer and faster in order to make more money. And the incentive than safety is in the back seat of the front and center. Right. And so, what does it do to truck safety coalition is that they try to use these personal stories and to sit down and talk with these lawmakers in Washington? These aren’t laws. They’re passing their regulations. You know, there’s the Department of Transportation, the federal Department of Transportation has a whole section dedicated to tractor trailers. And so, there are regulations. Those regulations have been hollowed out and rolled back in the last few years. I don’t want to get into politics, but under the Obama administration, the truck safety coalition made some gains. They made some very important gains about sleeping, about RTM sleep for drivers in that first night back issue. But I spoke about earlier making sure that you get RTM sleep between most restorative sleep between one and three a.m. There were all these different kinds of regulations that that that that they passed in 2010. But then as soon as the majority party, the Republicans came back in the House, a lot of that stuff was put on hold and then it just eventually died. So, none of it really was implemented. And there’s a there’s a there’s another chapter in the book where Ed goes to Washington with Matthew to testify, he thought, on the death of one of these committee hearings run by Representative Jim Jordan, who is an Ohio representative. And he and he was not all they did was read his statement into the record. They didn’t allow him to actually testify, which really upset him at the time. And so, and then, you know, obviously, when you have these committees, the ruling party gets to stack the deck the way they want. Right. On these hearings and so on. This on this day, there were four pro trucking companies and one safety advocate. And I didn’t find that to be particularly fair and made that known. And there’s a whole chapter about and kind of quartering Jim Jordan in the hallway during a bathroom break. There’s a there’s a part where Dennis Kucinich at the time who was in the Congress was the one who read him his story into the record. And, you know, he was he was kind of cornering safety advocates saying this is a farce. How could you do this? And I mean, it’s a really interesting way that how politics is involved in this, you know, and I don’t want to get into the current climate or whatever, but the last few years, a lot of those regulations that they have been trying to enact have been rolled back and are parked, you know, I guess, or forgotten about. And that’s what the safety advocates say today, is that if we if we don’t lose any more, we’re in good shape and they’re waiting out this current climate. So that’s kind of where they’re at. You know, in the meantime, they just believe that if they can tell their story to the to. The right lawmakers that eventually they can get some real change. Some change that impacts all industry, because you can obviously, like you said, there’s some companies that are doing the right thing, then investing in the right technology, the right resources, because they want to make a difference or they’re avoiding risk. But because there’s so many players and so many different types of trucks out there. I remember there’s another incident that happened in Canada. It was in Saskatchewan where there was a there was a bus with students that was driving down. It was hit by a tractor. It was I’m not sure if it was a tractor trailer, but some truck hit it and half of a of a hockey team got lost their life. It was a horrible, tragic event. But again, same thing you knew legislation came in and then change of government and similar legislation, as I understand it, is all rolled back. So, it really a case that to get real change in an environment that’s so big with so many players, it sounds like regulation is really the one of the main drivers that needs to that to be at the forefront of this. Any other thoughts in terms of how people that want to drive change in the industry? I think this is an incredible story. Really appreciate you taking the time to write a book on it and to share a little bit about the book. I encourage people to pick up the book as well. It’s available along Blinkx, obviously, on Amazon and other book retailers. Any other thoughts that you have in terms of Distracted Driving Awareness Month? Any other thoughts around how we can make our roads safer that you might want to share? You know, it’s funny. I don’t I don’t think a lot of people I say, you know, when I started the story, I didn’t I didn’t think much about it either. You passed trucks on the road all the time and you don’t we don’t really understand how much of an issue this is. It doesn’t get a lot of press a lot. But when you look in the numbers, they’re startling. You know, since 2010 when Susan was killed, thirty-six hundred people on American roadways were killed in large truck crashes. Now you take you fast forward to twenty seventeen because they still haven’t released the twenty eighteen or twenty nineteen to deal with releasing that stuff late. But we still haven’t gotten twenty eighteen numbers so we don’t know. But through 2010, through twenty seventeen, just seven years that number has jumped by 30 percent in twenty seventeen, nearly forty-seven hundred people were killed on the road on roadways. Bye. Crashes with large trucks. It is not an issue that is getting any better. In fact, it is getting worse year over year over year since 2010 when I started looking into this. So, it quite literally is something that affects all of us. We all see a tractor trailer going by us at least once a day if we’re driving right. And so, it’s just an issue that needs to be raised awareness, you know, and that is part and parcel. I wrote the book. I wrote the book as well, again, driven by character, by Ed, and what his personal journey is to kind of take you along there. But the numbers are there are absolutely startling. And they’re not getting they’re not getting any better. You know, and also in this book, I also want to bring up that toward the end, we were able to actually have an interview with the driver. You know, the driver ended up going to prison for five years because of the of the crash, which is which is also kind of where the judge sentenced him. GITTINGS Yeah. And after a couple of years and there’s a whole couple of chapters in there about Adam Driver going back and forth and writing him in prison and he wants to forgive him. It’s this whole it’s really, it’s heartbreaking. And then after a couple of years and finally writes the judge and says, you know what, he needs to get out and rebuild his life or your building mine. And so, he gets out and that’s when we decide to meet up with him and do an interview. Because I wanted his perspective in this book because I mean, Ed believes, you know, truck drivers are victims of this, too. It’s not they’re not forgotten. They’re the ones doing the driving. They’re the ones that are affected by this as well. So, you know, this book ends in a very explosive and unpredictable manner. And, you know, we were able to sit down and talk with the driver that’s included in this book as well. It’s just it gives it kind of a different another level, another kind of understanding into people’s minds about how this issue really does really does. It ruins families, not just not just the people who are who are the so-called victims in these accidents, but, you know, the drivers as well. And it’s also important to point out that, you know, not a lot of all these crashes are not trucker’s fault. Sometimes they’re bad driver’s fault. And as far as the statistics, anywhere you want on that, but right now we’re looking at, according to the latest numbers in the federal county, is about 40, 700 people a year being killed on our roadways every year. That’s a lot. I mean, when we first started this project, Ops around thirty-six hundred a year, I would say that’s like more than a 911 every year. And I thought that was jarring hour at forty-seven hundred people a year. And you know, it’s just, it’s just it’s an issue that that I think needs a little bit more sunlight. And I hope that I’ve been able to focus a little bit of light on that with this book. Yeah, thank you. And I really appreciate you sharing this and the numbers you’re sharing, which are jarring on their own, don’t even include people that are getting injured or things where there wasn’t a loss of life. And so, it’s really something that is systemic, as you said, and needs more focus around. So, thank you very much for taking the time for sharing and really encourage everybody to pick up the book, to read more about it and to advocate for safer roads. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate the time. Thank you for listening to The Safety Guru on C-Suite radio. Leave a legacy, distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your teams. Fuel your future. come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru Eric Michrowski.

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ABOUT THE GUEST

Brian Kuebler is an award winning investigative journalist. He has been a television reporter for twenty years and has written, published, and broadcast thousands of stories in his career. Kuebler has won three Edward R. Murrow Awards for his writing ability, an Emmy, and recognized for ‘Outstanding Enterprise Reporting’ by the Associated Press. Two of those honors were awarded to Brian for the reporting of the story that eventually became his narrative nonfiction book, The Long Blink. During his career, Brian worked to develop a unique hard news, narrative style of writing that resonates with his viewers and readers.

Visit Brian Kuebler’s Website: https://brian-kuebler.com/

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