Friday, February 20, 2015

New Jersey ‘death-by-truck’ crashes: No one comes out ‘unscathed’

There was a powerful story on NJ.com earlier this week about a string of crashes involving people who intentionally walked in front of tractor-trailers on the New Jersey highway system. According to the report, 2014 was the deadliest year for pedestrians in the Garden State in more than a decade, topping out at 170 incidents in 2014, almost 30 percent higher than in 2013.

If you’ve been on the road long enough, you’ve probably had a close call, or maybe you or someone you know has been in the same tragic situation trucker Bob Eason found himself in last September on Route 287. According to the report, Eason was heading back toward his home in Sinking Spring, Pa., after a delivery, when a 37-year-old man from Denville, N.J., jumped in front of his rig. The report states that the man had parked his car on the shoulder of the highway and hid in front of it until jumping into Eason’s path.

Eason tells the paper that he still has nightmares about the event and that it’s become difficult for him to handle driving.

“I work very hard to put food on the table for my family, but I don't know why the guy chose my truck,” he said. “It's tough for me. I can't trust anybody. I don't believe that they're not going to jump in front of me and take their own life.”

In addition to talking with a trucker, the story also provides information on resources and help available for truckers like Eason who are struggling with feelings of guilt, remorse or other trauma.

Our own Contributing Writer Charlie Morasch tackled the subject of drivers’ coping with death, loss and in some instances survivor’s guilt in a story titled “Why me? I was a good driver” in the May 2012 issue of Land Line Magazine. He talked to a handful of members who shared their experiences during and in the aftermath of tragedy.

One of the subjects of his story, OOIDA Life Member Ray Shankle, said he shakes his head when he sees a report of a trucking-involved fatality in which the reporter writes “the trucker was not hurt.”

“They say, ‘The trucker was not injured,’” Ray says. “Well, you might not have any physical injuries, but that driver has a helluva load on his shoulders no matter whose fault it is. He was behind the wheel of an instrument of death. No matter what, he is not unscathed.”