Atlanta man turns family's tragedy into change

- An Atlanta businessman has been working for years to turn his family's tragedy into change. He helped start an organization focusing on tractor trailer safety that's raised more than $2 million.

Steve Owings lost his 22-year-old son, Cullum, almost 15 years ago after a speeding tractor trailer slammed into his vehicle. Since then, Steve and his wife have helped start Road Safe America. Their goal is to get tougher laws for big trucks and stop the number of deadly wrecks involving them.

Roughly 1,000 wrecks a day involve big trucks, according to Road Safe America.

"Our sons were trying to get back to college the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2002, and they nearly made it," Steve says.

Just 10 miles shy of their college town in Virginia, the Owings brothers hit a traffic jam. In their rear view mirror, the Cullum saw the tractor trailer barreling toward them.

"The only vehicle that didn't stop safely among hundreds or thousands in that traffic jam was the tractor trailer truck being driven over the speed limit, on cruise control," Steve adds.

Ever since Cullum's death, Steve and his family have tried to keep others from experiencing their pain. They helped to start Road Safe America.

"We like to think that we've saved a lot of lives, and prevented a lot of injuries and helped reduce where congestion would otherwise be...yet the trends are going in the wrong direction. They're still going up, not down," states Steve. 

For years, the nonprofit group has been working to get stricter laws for the trucking industry.

"We're the only leading country on earth without a rule saying that the biggest trucks have to set their speed governors or speed limiters," explains Steve.

For Steve, the biggest issue is how drivers are paid. He says most are still paid per mile driven.

"What's the incentive there?  Drive as fast as you can drive, for as long as you can get away with it, because you'll make more money. That's absurd," says Steve.

Steve says Road Safe America is not anti-trucking or anti-truck driver, he actually believes truck drivers deserve to be treated better than they are. He also recognizes that not all the wrecks are caused by the truck driver, but he says there are still way too many that are.

"We believe the trucking industry should be required to have drivers that drive so safely, so defensively that no crashes are ever caused by the trucking industry. That's the goal," he adds.

Steve is a Wealth Management Advisor with Northwestern Mutual. The company recently awarded him $15,000 for Road Safe America for his community service efforts.

Road Safe America says there's a big victory for safety coming. Starting in December, truckers will have to log their hours electronically, instead of on paper which means it will be tougher to fake their numbers. He says though, if the speed limiters aren't in place too, it could be dangerous as some drivers try to make up the gap by driving faster.

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