Underride collisions involving rear and side impacts cause devastating accidents on our roadways each and every year. This type of accident occurs when a standard passenger auto crashes into the rear or side of a big rig or tractor trailer and winds up underneath the trailer. It is not unusual for the occupants in such accidents to become decapitated or crushed. Few survive. Now two mothers who lost their loved ones in underride accidents are lobbying for legislators to make changes to federal regulations regarding the use of underride bars, which are steel bars that prevent such accidents from occurring.
One mom, Marianne Karth from North Carolina, lost her 17- and 13-year-old daughters in an underride accident fie years ago in a rear underride accident. The other, Lois Durso from Florida, lost her 26-year-old daughter in a side underride crash with a big rig. The car in which Durso’s daughter was driving became trapped beneath the rear wheel of the truck, the car being dragged down the highway for a bit while her daughter was being crushed inside.
Federal laws now call for tractor trailers to have rear underride guards in place, and studies have proven their efficacy in increasing the odds of crash victims’ surviving a rear-end crash with a big rig. But these moms say the current regulations are not enough, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety agrees with them. The organization, a non-profit that seeks to improve safety conditions on America’s roadways, says that the rear guards “don’t always hold up” and that the current federal regulations regarding underride bars are two decades old. There is no provision requiring the installation of side underride bars.
The mothers’ advocacy work, which has included 15 trips to Washington, has a ways to go. In 2017, a bill known as the Stop Underrides Act of 2017 was drafted. It is currently going through Washington red tape and is in the hands of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Capitol Hill. Detractors, which are groups that represent the trucking industry, say that requiring guards on both the rear and sides of tractor trailers would not be easy, since “there are a lot of operations issues that you need to consider,” notes Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association president Jeff Simms. The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 calls for stronger materials to be used in underride bars and for side underride bars to be required on tractor trailers.
The government has no specific data on the frequency of underride accidents, since there is no standardized reporting. A special assignment unit with Channel WUSA9 notes that at least 25 underride accidents in 20 different states, resulting in 11 serious injuries and 20 deaths in just the first five months of 2018. These findings were found based on published reports in the media, notes WUSA9.