Could This Bipartisan Senate Bill Prevent Fatal Side Underride Crashes?

Posted: December 20, 2017

Underride crashes are a horrific type of truck accident. An underride crash occurs when a smaller passenger vehicle is forced underneath the rear or side of a tractor-trailer during a collision. The tops of passenger vehicles can be sheared off and occupants are often decapitated. In 1998, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated rear guards on tractor-trailers to prevent rear underride accidents. However, there are no rules that require tractor-trailers to use side or front guards. More than 200 people are killed each year in side underride accidents.

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have introduced the Stop Underrides Act of 2017 to resolve this public safety threat. Tractor-trailers would be required to use front and side guards if the bill is signed into law. The bill would also institute strict inspection requirements for underride guards to ensure they remain in working order. You can read the full text of the bill online.

Do Underride Guards Prevent Injuries and Fatalities?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an organization that regularly crash tests vehicles, found that strong underride guards could prevent fatalities and injuries. Notice the emphasis on the word “strong.” In 2011, the IIHS conducted three crash tests on rear underride guards that met existing federal safety standards. Many of the rear guards broke or buckled during collisions. The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 could fix this problem by requiring underride guards to prevent a vehicle travelling at 35 miles per hour from passing underneath the trailer.

A 2012 study conducted by IIHS found that strong side underride guards could reduce the risk of injury in roughly 90 percent of side underride crashes involving tractor-trailers.

Underride accidents may sometimes involve collisions at very high speeds, which means there would be significantly greater impact forces. In 2016, a Tesla Model S driver using Autopilot collided with the side of a tractor-trailer at 65 miles per hour. The Tesla Model S travelled underneath the trailer and came out the other side, killing the occupant. Fortunately, the Stop Underrides Act of 2017 calls for research into underride guards that can prevent underrides at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour.

The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 is a welcome change to the status quo. Do you believe the bill will pass and be signed into law? Would you add more to the bill if you were in charge? Let us know what you think by connecting with the North Carolina truck accident lawyers at Riddle & Brantley, LLP on Facebook and Twitter.

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