An Indiana woman lost her life last month when her vehicle struck the back of a Volvo semi tractor-trailer in slowed traffic, resulting in a deadly underride collision.
Sergiy Shadrin, 54, was driving a 2012 Volvo tractor-trailer west on I-70 on Feb. 23. He had the truck’s hazards lights turned on because of slowed traffic. According to RTV 6 of Indianapolis, Indiana State Police reported that Mr. Shadrin, of Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, said he felt an impact at the rear of his tractor-trailer and stopped immediately.
The State Police said that 32-year-old Ashley Williams of Marshall, Illinois, failed to observe the slowed traffic and struck the back of the tractor-trailer in her 2011 Jeep. Ms. Williams died at the scene of the crash. Police said there was no evidence that drugs or alcohol were a factor.
Current regulations not enough
The accident is one of the latest examples of how federal regulations aren’t sufficient to prevent or mitigate underride crashes.
For years, federal regulators and lawmakers have resisted adopting regulations that would improve the strength and safety of rear guards that are required on commercial trucks. They have also shot down bipartisan efforts to mandate side underride guards, which currently are not required.
The exact number is difficult to pinpoint because there is no centralized system in place to track the number of underride crashes that occur in the U.S every year. According to government estimates, more than 4,000 people died between 1998 – the year the U.S. government issued the last underride regulation – and 2017. That’s more than 200 underride crashes every year.
The Stop Underrides Act
In December 2017, the bipartisan Stop Underrides Act was introduced in the Senate to require guards on the sides and front of tractor-trailers and update the standards for rear underride guards. No action was taken on the bill and it was reintroduced last year, but the proposed measure has yet to go to the floor for a vote.
The bill would also require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to review the underride standards every five years for improvement or modification.
“There is a federal regulation for guards that have to be put on the rears of large trailers, but it turns out that regulation isn’t working well to prevent underride crashes,” says Matt Brumbelow, Senior Research Engineer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in a video about underride crash safety. The group has been working with industry leaders to make underride crashes more survivable.
Mothers turn loss into action
Marianne Karth of North Carolina lost two of her teen daughters in a 2013 underride crash with a tractor-trailer. She has since become one of the country’s leading advocates for better underride safety measures.
“No matter what year the trailer was built, a stronger rear guard could have been installed,” Ms. Karth said, according to RTV6. “I’m beyond frustrated and angry and in disbelief that opposition continues against solving a preventable public health and traffic safety problem. On my part, I continue to raise awareness and urge DOT to move forward with rulemaking and Congress to pass a law forcing them to do so.”
Lois Durso, a Florida mother who lost her 26-year-old daughter Roya in an underride crash, also advocated for better regulations alongside Ms. Karth. She also believes the lack of action on Capitol Hill is costing people their lives.
“So we know it’s going to continue unless something is done and I hate to use this word but it’s true, it’s been a massacre out there,” Ms. Durso told WUSA 9 of Washington DC.
Truck accident lawyer
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. Attorneys like Chris hope to spur manufacturers and industry to change the way they make and regulate products in order to better protect consumers.