Another year has passed and hundreds more people have died in horrific underride collisions with tractor trailers, simply because lawmakers on Capitol Hill have refused to pass legislation that would mandate side underride guards on commercial trucks.
In 2017, a bipartisan group of representatives first introduced the Stop Underrides Act to the House. An identical bill was also introduced to the Senate. The bills aim to prevent underride crashes and mitigate the crashes that do occur by making them more survivable.
If a tractor-trailer ever jackknifed, turned, or pulled out in front of you on a road or highway, then you likely already thought about or experienced what a collision with the side of large truck could do to your vehicle. Even at low speeds, the top of the car is sheared off, rendering the car’s safety features almost useless. Severe head and neck trauma and decapitation often result.
Underrides also occur when smaller vehicles collide with the back of tractor-trailers and when tractor-trailers crash into the back of smaller vehicles.
The proposed Stop Underrides Act incorporates recommendations from the National Transportation Board (NTSB) in calling for underride protection on the sides and front of tractor-trailers. The bill would also improve safety requirements for rear underride guards, which have been mandated since 1953. In short, the bill would help make the motoring public safer from all sides of large commercial trucks.
In 2016, about 1,475 people in passenger vehicles were killed in collisions involving tractor-trailers. Nearly 300 of those people died in vehicles that hit the side of a semi-truck, while 238 people were killed in vehicles that struck the truck’s rear. Collisions with the front of a truck killed 915 motorists in passenger vehicles, and another 27 died in crashes with an unknown part of the truck.
Many of these people and hundreds more since would be alive today had better underride protections been in place. Hundreds of others would have been spared debilitating and lifelong injuries.
“The technology is available to equip every truck in this country with underride protection,” writes Lois Durso, whose 26-year-old daughter was killed in a 2004 underride crash, on her Stop Underrides website. “It’s not the crash that kills – it’s the underride. Without underride protection on trucks, every passenger vehicle is vulnerable to underride crashes. There is a solution that will save countless lives.”
Most commercial trucking groups oppose the proposed underride measures, arguing that the underride guards would add weight to the trucks, reduce loads, and increase fuel expenses.
But how do you put a price on thousands of lives? It’s past time to put proven, life-saving technologies to use. If only our representatives in Congress were as zealous about public safety and protecting lives as they are about profit margins, the daily risks on our roads and highways would be drastically reduced.
Chris Glover, the managing attorney for our Atlanta office, has experience handling vehicle accident cases involving 18-wheelers, heavy trucks and other commercial vehicles. He would be happy to talk with you about a case involving truck accidents including serious injuries and deaths as a result of underride crashes.