It is 5:00 AM and the bright orange sun is just hitting the treetops as I enter the city. Things have run very smoothly on my trip through Tennessee. I will be at my drop off point in just an hour. I can then take my break and get the rest I need to pick up my next load towards home.
I‘ve been doing this now for over twenty-five years. I’ve never had a traffic citation or an accident. I take pride in my work, my family and my God. I concentrate on my work while I’m out here and when I get home I give my attention to those I love.
This morning has been no different than all those days, weeks, months and years of my career, except that today someone is going to lose their life and during the process of being involved in a very tragic accident, my life and my family’s lives will be forever changed.
The pickup truck that hit me head-on seemed to have come from thin air. Just before the impact, time stood still and I felt nothing as my cab folded around me. A fire ensued as I luckily escaped from an open door of my cab with my life. The fire was from the vehicle that stuck me and although I tried the best I could, nothing could help the woman or her teenage passenger.
As I watched, my body and mind was still numb and there was no audible sound from people or emergency vehicles that surrounded me. I could do nothing more than weep for the great loss I had witnessed. I fell to my knees and began to pray, the reality of this moment still locked inside me. A law enforcement officer approached and asked me to stand. Without any warning he shackled my hands. With tears still streaming down my face I looked at the officer and saw a young man who was glaring at me more intensely that any human being had ever done in my life.
Someone at the accident had made the statement that I had run over this mother and her teen. I could not believe what I had heard come from the officer’s mouth. I asked the officer again, “What did you say?” Again, the same words came from the officer’s mouth. In just a split second in time I had become an accused killer.
Truck drivers are just like the majority of American families today. We make just enough to survive. Even though I had been able to save a little money over the years by denying myself and my family certain pleasures, it wasn’t enough and certainly not even a good beginning for what was to follow.
This is a true story from a driver who called me a couple of years ago. He was listening to the Dave Nemo show where I was a guest at the time talking about the impact of tragic accidents and what a driver is likely to face when involved in a tragic accident. There is nothing enjoyable about listening to a grown man cry, but he wasn’t crying for himself. No, he cried not only for the lives lost, but for the loss facing his family. He had searched everywhere he could to find help with the pending legal costs. He was facing over fifty thousand dollars in legal bills to defend himself, even though he was innocent. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to give him the news that he could not qualify for a legal plan after an accident had already happened.
Even though this man was eventually found innocent of all charges, his legal bills exceeded $70,000. He lost his home and his vehicles and was forced into bankruptcy. He also lost his job. Every year there are more than 5,000 tragic accidents involving commercial vehicles. A recent case just settled in California resulted in a jury awarding a family eleven million dollars in damages against a driver and the carrier. The driver was also charged with homicide by vehicle.
This Sunday, upon remembering this unfortunate story, I wanted to share it with you. Our families depend on our earnings and our freedom. Driving a truck for a living puts all of that at risk. It is a risk that none of us can afford to take in today’s environment. Sometimes we have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others and sometimes we have to learn from our own mistakes! Just be aware that this year over 5,000 drivers will face this same type of tragedy and less than 10% of those drivers will be prepared with a legal plan that protects themselves, their families their carrier and their freedoms.