The Columns

Slow Down Pierce Owings ’06 Urges Public to Comment on Speed-Limiting Devices

— by on November 8th, 2016

Pierce Owings '06 (left) with his brother, Cullum.Pierce Owings ’06 (left) with his brother, Cullum.

This Thanksgiving marks the 14th anniversary of the tragic death of Cullum Owings ’03 in an automobile accident on I-81 as he and his younger brother, Pierce Owings ’06, were returning to campus from their suburban Atlanta home after the break. The Owings’ car was hit by a tractor-trailer a few miles from Lexington. While Cullum died, Pierce sustained minor injuries

A year after that Dec. 2, 2002, accident, Cullum and Pierce’s parents, Steve and Susan Owings of Buckhead, Ga., co-founded their non-profit organization, Road Safe America, through which they have lobbied for national laws to limit the speeds of heavy trucks on highways.

A story on the Northside Neighbor website reported that in 2006 the Owingses “petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation to adopt a new rule to require all trucks over 26,000 pounds to use a speed limiter.”

Ten years later, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now considering a proposed rule addressing speed limiters for big-rigs: Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations: Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; Speed Limiting Devices.

Road Safe America has launched an effort through its website to ask the public to comment on the proposal before the Dec. 7 deadline. The organization supports the speed-limiter to be set at 60 mph, which is what the DOT’s own data concludes will save the most lives.

“The DOT has proposed a speed-limiter rule, but the enforcement would only apply to new heavy trucks,” said Pierce, a member of the board of Road Safe America. “Incredibly, this is despite the fact that the majority of existing tractor-trailers on the highway already have the speed-limiting technology built into their systems. It only has to be turned on.”