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Truck Accident Hits Close to Home for Joe Biden

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Washington, DCWhen a truck accident happens, the results are usually devastating, traumatic, horrific, and tragic. Use any adjective you want, but they all apply. That's because when a tractor-trailer accident happens, it's usually in conjunction with a vehicle much smaller in size and stature.

And folklore aside, when a David tangles with a Goliath on the highways, it's the Goliath that usually wins.

Truck AccidentJust ask Vice-Presidential hopeful Joe Biden, the Democrat from Delaware and running mate of Barack Obama.

His story has been rehashed again and again in the media since Democratic presidential hopeful Obama put the call to Biden, to help him win the White House. But Joe Biden's story bears repeating here. That's because just weeks after he defeated the Republican incumbent to win the Senate seat in Delaware, and just weeks before he was sworn in for his first term in 1973, Joe Biden suffered a horrific loss to a big rig truck.

The family was still celebrating Biden's Senate win when Neilia Biden, Joe's wife and mother of their three children, drove the kids out to buy a Christmas tree. It was December 18th, just one week before Christmas, and the family was brimming with excitement over the days, weeks and months ahead.

And then, in an instant, Biden's world was torn apart by a truck accident. Neilia was heading home with the chosen tree when the family station wagon was broadsided by a tractor-trailer at an intersection in the town of Hockessin, Delaware. Neilia was killed, along with the couple's 13-month-old daughter Naomi. The two boys—Beau and Hunter, and just toddlers themselves—were critically injured in the collision.

Instead of celebrating Christmas, Senator-elect Biden found himself burying his beautiful wife and daughter, and agonizing over the injuries and prognosis of his two sons. His long Senate run—35 years now—began at his son's bedside in hospital, where he took the oath of office, suddenly, as a single parent.

Biden's story has a happy ending, although it was a long time coming. His sons recovered, he eventually re-married, and welcomed a new daughter in 1981. Aside from surgery in 1988 for a pair of brain aneurysms, Biden's star has been rising after a tough beginning, culminating in his current place on the Democratic ticket.

But it is said that the Senator from Delaware never works on December 18th. That's the day, in 1972, when the driver of a semi tractor-trailer truck nearly destroyed his entire family.

News accounts of that day describe the Biden Chevrolet station wagon as a twisted mass of metal. The collision was so violent that the truck driver was also hospitalized and that is rare. Usually, the truck driver walks away. Over the years there were allegations that the truck driver had been drinking, but those allegations were never proven, and no charges were ever laid.

It also must be said that there are thousands of successful tractor-trailer runs each day in this country that end successfully, without tragedy. You never hear about those.

However, when a truck accident DOES happen, you hear about it usually due to the scope of the tragedy. Trucks are behemoths in their own right, without being compounded by the sheer weight of heavy loads. When a driver drives tired, or careless or under the influence—or when a truck is poorly maintained—the ramifications can be tragic, and there are so many stories.

Like the time when a loaded asphalt truck stalled on a hill, and started to roll backwards.
Its brakes failed too. Imagine the carnage when all that weight slammed into a car stopped at an intersection at the bottom of the hill. A car containing two high school-aged girls on their way home.

If the collision didn't kill them, the 14,000 pounds of steaming asphalt that poured onto their car from the up-ended truck, would have.

With trucks getting larger and cars smaller, advocates of safer roads have called for the segregation of trucks from the nation's highways. At the very least, truck lanes with barriers sufficiently robust to keep the two vehicle types from coming into contact with one another, would reduce the carnage. Banning big rigs from residential streets is another idea worthy of consideration, critics say.

Perhaps, with personal experience as to what can happen in a truck accident, a certain Senator from Delaware and, perhaps in the ensuing months the incoming Vice President of the United States, might manage to wield some influence in Washington.

Until then, truck accidents will continue to be sorted out in the courts of law.


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