In May 2015, five people were traveling in two different cars on a Georgia interstate when suddenly they were killed just before two o’clock in the afternoon. The cause? A semi-truck driver had fallen asleep, struck several cars and then pushed one of the vehicles into the back of another tractor-trailer. The victims ranged from 16-years-old to 72-years-old and all of their deaths were entirely preventable.
On September 27, 2014, North Central Texas College’s softball team was on their team bus, an hour north of their school, when a tractor-trailer plowed into the side of it killing four young women. Police said there was no indication that truck driver has slowed down before he hit the bus.
In August 2010, Susan Slattery was heading home from a family reunion with her two sons, Matthew, 12, and Peter, 16, when her car was struck from behind. Susan’s car burst into flames, killing her. Matthew’s skull was crushed, he is now in a wheelchair and has a hard time speaking; Peter’s eye socket and pelvis were broken. The truck driver, Douglas Bouch, said:
I was coming down the hill and I guess I dozed off. When I opened my eyes I saw brake lights, people coming to a stop. I could not stop, I could not veer. I looked for an out but there was nowhere to go.
So, why are we talking about these gruesome accidents? Because Republicans in Congress are trying to roll back the safety rules that prevent more of them from happening and they are doing it by tying the bill to Zika funding.
On Tuesday, the House and Senate both passed funding bills to combat the deadly Zika virus, but tucked away in both versions were stipulations that would allow truck drivers to work longer hours with little to no sleep. The Huffington Post reports:
Both bills would prevent the Obama administration from enforcing a regulation that briefly went into effect in 2013 that effectively capped truck drivers’ working hours at 70 a week, and ensured they could have two nights off in a row. That rule was blocked by a rider in a 2014 spending bill, which had to pass to avert a government shutdown.
The reason the safety bills were tied to Zika funding is because Republicans know there is no way they would pass as stand-alone bills. By attaching them to the funding they do not have to hold hearings on them and the victims of these horrific accidents aren’t able to speak out. Jackie Gillian, the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said as much to the HuffPo:
There’s not been any congressional hearings on any of these proposals. The trucking industry doesn’t want to have hearings…They don’t want to hear from victims. They know that if they do have testimony and they have the experts up there, the people affected, that they would see how illogical and insane these proposals are.
Roughly 4,000 trucking accidents happen every year, many times because the truck driver was so fatigued they fell asleep at the wheel. These accidents are completely preventable if the truckers get sufficient sleep, but like most industries there have to be regulations in place that force them to do so. When liberal lawmakers tried to remove the Zika funding from the transportation bills on Wednesday, Republicans blocked them. Three Democratic senators — Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey — plan to introduce an amendment on Thursday that will keep the Obama administration’s rules in place, but it is unlikely the amendment will pass.
You would think that the GOP would do everything possible to keep our families safe on the roads, unfortunately, they really don’t care. Republicans talk a good game about wanting to protect the American people, but they are only interested in doing so when it does not interfere with some business’ bottom line. This is more proof that the Republican Party is uninterested in doing the job they were elected to do: serve the citizenry.
Featured image via Win McNamee/Getty Images