Ringgold woman pushes big rig safety in D.C.

Ringgold woman pushes big rig safety in D.C.

May 3rd, 2011 by Ben Benton in News

Ringgold, Ga., resident Cindy Whitaker lost her husband, brother-in-law and niece on Sept. 18, 2009, when a bucket truck crossed the center line on state Highway 136 in Walker County and slammed into the Dodge Ram truck in which they were riding.

Today, Whitaker will be in Washington, D.C., to speak on behalf of a trucking safety organization that is pushing for stricter safety rules.

"Our family is devastated, and our lives will never be the same," Whitaker said of the Whitaker and Hixon families in the wake of the deadly crash.

Although that crash was more related to speeding, Whitaker hopes her story will foster better safety regulations for the trucking industry, she said.

"We're looking to decrease the hours of service for truck drivers," she said. "Many [speakers] are family and friends of crash victims who were killed by truck drivers falling asleep. There's many people here who have multiple family victims who were killed or maimed by truckers falling asleep."

The group also is pushing for on-board recording devices such as those used by European truckers, she said.

Whitaker is taking part in a news conference to support bipartisan legislation, dubbed the "Safe Highways and Infrastructure Preservation Act," Truck Safety Coalition spokeswoman Beth Weaver said.

The coalition, a partnership between Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents Against Tired Truckers, will release a new poll today showing "overwhelming support for truck weight and size limitations, and revising the federal rule on driving hours for truck drivers," Weaver said.

The group's "Sorrow to Strength" conference brings together survivors of truck crashes for four days of remembrance, workshops and to meet with members of the U.S. Congress and Department of Transportation, she said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at 423-757-6569 or bbenton@timesfreepress.com.