From the Office of State Senator Kevin Witkos
In last week’s column, I held a contest to see who could do some research and tell me about the former government official in this painting. The gentleman depicted here is our former Lieutenant Governor William L. Hadden, who served in that position from 1943 to 1945. During many long meetings in our caucus room, a story developed with limited information that Mr. Hadden was involved in an accident with a tractor trailer and that the incident propelled him to advocate for safety measures, such as bumpers and guards, to prevent these types of accidents. However, no one was entirely sure that the story was true, and I decided to see what I could find. What exactly is his story?
According to the Hartford Courant, Mr. Hadden was injured during a collision between a car and a tractor trailer in North Haven on February 16, 1933. At the time, tractor trailers were not required to have bumpers designed to prevent a car from sliding underneath the trailer, referred to as truck underride. It is a dangerous situation that can cause serious injury. As federal safety standards were adopted over time, improvements were put in place to require vehicle manufacturers to add safety features, such as seat belts or bumpers. Mr. Hadden was lucky to survive, but his colleague, Judge Stanley Dunn of the New Haven City Court, was fatally injured in the crash.
Graduating with a law degree from Fordham University, Mr. Hadden was serving as a judge on the West Haven Town Court at the time of the accident. Six years later in 1939, Mr. Hadden served as a State Representative in the General Assembly, and he went on to serve as House Majority Leader and Chair of the Judiciary Committee in 1941. Mr. Hadden then served as Lieutenant Governor for two years and was appointed Attorney General in 1945 by Governor Raymond E. Baldwin to fill a vacancy, later being reelected for a full term until 1951. I didn’t find anything about implementing safety standards until I started reading about another man with a strikingly similar name who lived in Washington, D.C.
William Haddon, Jr., of no relation to the Lieutenant Governor, was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to become the first administrator of the National Traffic Safety Agency and the National Highway Safety Agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation. He was called “a leader in highway accident research and prevention” by the New York Times. Mr. Haddon later became President of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, where he testified in front of the U.S. Senate Consumer Subcommittee in support of developing requirements that would effectively prevent underride in rear-end collisions between cars and tractor trailers.
Although these two gentlemen were not related, their stories bear an interesting connection. One was injured in an accident with a tractor trailer, and the other was part of a safety campaign focused on standardizing regulations around the country to ensure that tractor trailers would be required to feature these preventative measures. Next time you are on the highway, look for the guards and you will appreciate the history behind the standards that have saved numerous lives.
As a Sergeant in the Canton Police Department and a Senator on the Public Safety Committee, I am always interested in learning about methods of keeping motorists safe. After years of wondering about the gentleman in the painting, and after some research help from the Legislative Library staff, we have learned more about our former Lieutenant Governor and the strange connection that has made traveling on our roads a little safer. Thank you to all those who searched for information and submitted their guesses!
For more information about traffic safety in our state, please visit the Connecticut Department of Transportation website at www.ct.gov/dot. Next week, I will write about my take on the recent special session.