Are Defective Underride Bars on Trucks Contributing to Fatal Accidents?

Big trucks are equipped with safety features called underride guards to help prevent smaller vehicles sliding underneath them in rear end crashes. These are often terrible accidents in which the top part of a car is sheared off.

Unfortunately, many of these underride bars are inadequate to the task of protecting car drivers during wrecks. Many trucks don’t even have side underride bars.

These kinds of wrecks have claimed numerous victims over the years including the actress Jayne Mansfield in 1967 and a pair of North Carolina teenagers heading to their siblings’ college graduation ceremonies in 2013.

The victims in these crashes often suffer severe head trauma or even decapitation.

Although the federal government requires rear impact guards on many larger trucks, the number of fatal underride crashes has remained at about 200 a year, and critics claim the real figure actually is higher, reports FairWarning.

Lobbying spearheaded by the mother of the North Carolina led federal authorities to push for better regulations for protective steel bars on the backs of trucks. However, activists were dismayed when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a proposal. They warned inadequate underride bars may continue to be an issue.

underride bars on trucks

Underride bars are important safety features

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted crash tests and additional research on underride bars. It warned the federal plan misses an opportunity to dramatically improve safety.

The NHTSA proposal requires rear impact guards be strong enough not to collapse, but capable of absorbing enough energy to protect motorists who hit the back of a truck at up to 35 miles per hour. The increase is just 5 mph above the current U.S. standard, and in line with the standard in place in Canada since 2007.

John Lannen, executive director of the Virginia-based Truck Safety Coalition said:

“Sadly, their proposal is to replace a 20-year-old standard with a 10-year-old standard. What they’re doing is essentially just copying the Canadian standard.”

Side underride guards are not even required under federal regulations despite some terrible accidents in which cars have slid under the sides of trucks.

Advocates for change include Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, now the minority leader of the Senate.

The cities of Boston, New York and Seattle require all trucks owned and operated by the city to have side guards to help eliminate deaths and injuries.

A report on NBC News noted side underride crashes kill as many as 200 people a year.

Lois Durso, whose 26-year-old daughter, Roya Sadigh, lost her life in a side underride crash told NBC:

“If there was a plane crash and 200 people died — the government would be all over that.”

She became increasingly angry about the lack of side underride bars on American trucks after noticing European trucks are equipped with them.

The terrible impact of underride crashes was highlighted last year when a self-driving Tesla car hit a truck in Florida, killing the 40-year-old occupant. However, the danger has been apparent since the death of Jayne Mansfield.

At the Law Office of Michael West, we are well aware of the devastating nature of tractor trailer crashes in Georgia. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a commercial vehicle wreck, please call us at (404) 913-1529.