Mother of nine tackles truck safety issues

By Brie Handgraaf

Staff Writer

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When AnnaLeah and Mary Lydia were killed in May 2013, the lives of the Karth family were changed forever. Now the bereaved mother of nine, Marianne Karth, is asking others to take a minute to support changes that could save other lives.

“Advocating for these changes helps with the grief because it gives us an opportunity to make a difference,” Marianne Karth said. “There is some healing that goes with that, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. Fighting for these changes stirs up all those memories that we went through, but it gives us hope that other families won’t have to go through what we’ve been through.”

Marianne Karth was driving a 2005 Ford Crown 
Victoria during a rainstorm on May 4 when traffic slowed on Interstate 20 in Georgia. Authorities said a tractor-trailer driver failed to slow with traffic and hit the Karth family’s car from behind, spinning the car around and hitting it again before the car slid underneath a second tractor-trailer.

All four Karth family members in the vehicle were seriously injured –Marianne, Caleb, 15, AnnaLeah, 17, and Mary, 13. AnnaLeah died at the scene while Mary held on for several days before succumbing to her injuries.

“The wreck opened our eyes about a lot of things like I had never heard of underride guards on trucks before this happened,” Marianne Karth said. “It was an eye opener to learn about the existence of cars going under trucks like that, and how about 4,000 people are killed and another 100,000 people are injured each year in truck crashes.”

The Karth family joined the Truck Safety Coalition in a meeting in September with the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who reportedly promised to “make tangible progress in a short period of time” on truck safety issues. This week the Karths posted a petition requesting Foxx to fulfill his promise on with the hope of gaining at least 1,000 signatures by April 30.

The petition asks Foxx to raise the minimum insurance level required for truck drivers for the first time in 30 years, decrease driver fatigue through electronic hour monitoring and improve underride guards to prevent deaths like the Karth family has endured.

“There are many safety issues related to trucking, but we are focused especially on the ones we’ve been impacted by and we’d like to see some progress on these issues as quickly as possible,” Marianne Karth said. “Every day counts. Everyday that goes by could cost someone their life.”

Each petition that is signed will be printed off, put in a purple or orange envelope in remembrance of the Karth girls’ favorite colors and taken to Foxx’s office in Washington, D.C.

“We were going through Mary’s things and we found a letter she wrote to herself last April,” Marianne Karth said. “She was planning to read it in like 10 years and in it she said she said she wanted to famous one day and hoped that when she read it she’d be living every day as if it were her last.

“When we lived in Texas, AnnaLeah and Mary were very active in efforts to start a ministry for homeless families and other efforts to help others, so while I wish they were here, I think they’d be proud of the effort we are making to help others.”