On Thanksgiving Day of 2004, Lois Durso got the call no mother ever wants to receive. A slippery road caused the car her daughter’s fiancé was driving to slide under the side of a large truck traveling next to them, dragging their car down the road in its rear wheels and crushing 26-year-old Roya Sadigh to death.
A new bill intended to reduce the number of accidents like the one that took Roya’s life was introduced by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) Dec. 12. The Stop Underrides Act was introduced in Roya’s memory along with the many others – an estimated 300 people per year – who died in an underride crash.
In this type of crash, a car slides under the body of a large truck, rendering the car’s safety features mostly useless. Often, these accidents are fatal even at low speeds and include injuries like decapitation. But a way to minimize the extent of these tragic injuries is within reach.
As Ms. Durso says on her website Stop Underrides, “The technology is available to equip every truck in this country with underride protection. 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.”
In fact, rear underride guards have been mandated on large trucks since 1996, but despite a 2014 recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suggesting front and side underride guards would save lives, they still have not been mandated.
To demonstrate the value of underride guards, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) demonstrated the difference between a guard and a skirt intended for aerodynamics. The first resulted in an airbag deployment as in any front-end collision, and the second resulted in a truck trailer resting on top of the front passenger seats.
The proposed bill would improve the guidelines for preexisting rear underride guards and introduce requirements for side and front underride guards. According to the bill, one year after the date of its enactment, a final rule requiring new trucks to be equipped with side underride guards must be issued, and within two years after its passage, a final rule requiring all existing trucks to be retrofitted must be issued.
For front underride guards, the bill outlines a 2-year timetable for a final rule for new trucks and a 3-year timetable for a final rule to require retrofitting older models. Data on victims of underride crashes also would be required to be displayed on a public website.
Placing public safety over profit margin should not have to be something an industry is forced to do, but sadly, that appears to be the case. A guard could have easily saved Roya Sadigh’s life and countless others. It is in their honor we must recognize the risk of underride crashes and eliminate this major safety hazard.
* * *
Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator
Kristen Gillibrand, U.S. Senator
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Data
National Transportation Safety Board