By Dillon Thomas

LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – A northern Colorado woman is hoping to use a family tragedy to save people’s lives, but it would require a national law. Katie Strader says the “Stop Underrides Act” would require the trucking industry to install technology along the sides of their trailers.

The technology would prevent a smaller vehicle from passing under the trailer and killing the occupants.

(credit: Strader family)

Strader joined the Truck Safety Coalition as a volunteer after her father was killed in a crash in 2014.

Rod Cota was traveling in a vehicle with coworkers in New York. They were unaware a semi was jackknifed and blacked out ahead on the interstate. All three in the vehicle were killed.

Rod Cota (credit: Strader family)

“Their vehicle passed completely under the bottom side of the tractor trailer. The three of them were killed instantly,” Strader told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.

(credit: Strader family)

Strader said new technologies, recently tested before industry professionals and lawmakers, would have given her father a chance at surviving his crash.

“Something needs to happen with this,” Strader said. “We’ll never be able to prevent the crashes. But, we can make them survivable.”

Two technologies, including one that operates like a rubber band, would lessen the damage done to a vehicle. While crashes would still occur, the new systems would stop a passenger vehicle from completely passing under a semi.

(credit: CBS)

“Instead of passing completely under (the semi) and risking being decapitated,” Strader said.

The proposal has bipartisan support, sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillbrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Strader said she knew some in the trucking industry were vocalizing concerns about requiring the installation of the life-saving measures. Some vocalized concerns about the added weight to the trailers which would impact their ability to transport more goods.

Strader said there was an answer for every concern. She suggested increasing weight load maximums to offset the weight of the safety devices. She believed many in the industry would back the bill if their ability to transport more efficiently was not hindered.

(credit: CBS)

Cota’s crash occurred in New York, which is why Gillibrand was quick to sponsor the bill. However, Strader said Colorado lawmakers were yet to publicly endorse the bill. She said recent calls to Colorado congressional lawmakers Bennett, Gardner and Neguse were promising and could propel her cause.

Strader hoped the bill would pass and become law. Even if the devices saved one life, she said it would make it all worth it.

Since her father was a paramedic and dedicated decades of his life to helping others, Strader said he would be happy to know his life went on to help others in the years to come.

“My dad was a fun-loving, rarely serious, but always playful,” Strader said. “He would do anything for anyone. Give the shirt off his back. To know that his legacy will be able to go on, to say his life and his death had an impact, he would say, ‘Never give up.’”

Dillon Thomas


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