Horrific outcomes often occur in underride accidents in which a smaller vehicle slides or skids underneath the back or side of a large truck. Drivers and passengers of the cars involved more than likely face catastrophic and fatal injuries in such accidents, which kill hundreds each year. And many of the tragedies are potentially avoidable.
U.S. lawmakers — pressured by victim advocates — have been encouraged to create legislation to address this safety issue. And they have, but those efforts failed. Maybe this time it will be different. In early March, with bipartisan support, the Stop Underrides Act was introduced for the third time on Capitol Hill. The bill would require the installation of safety steel-barred underride guards on the front and sides of newly built tractor-trailers. In addition, it improves the standards of rear guards on large trucks, currently required by law.
Safety guards on trucks may prevent such accidents
U.S. Sens. and co-sponsors Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) re-introduced the trucking safety bill on March 4. This time around, victim advocates made concessions in hopes that the legislation would gain wider support. The main concession is that underride guards would only be required on newly built large trucks and not on the numerous tractor-trailers currently on the road. The trucking industry contends that the proposed legislation is ineffective and costly.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), an average of 219 people died in underride collisions with large trucks during the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017. The number represents less than 1% of the total U.S. road fatalities during that time.
However, the GAO notes that underride fatalities are more than likely underreported, citing the differences as to how states and municipalities record their data. The result of these numbers is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may not possess accurate data in supporting victim advocates’ efforts to reduce such accidents and fatalities.
Let us hope that this time around, U.S. lawmakers’ efforts will be successful. Anyone who has survived an underride accident knows the challenges when living with a serious or debilitating injury. And many of these accidents may be avoidable.