Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is trying for the third time to pass legislation that would require safety requirements for big rigs – legislation that has the potential to save hundreds of lives each year. According to a CBS news report, the bill, Stop Underrides Act, was reintroduced by Gillibrand, a Democratic senator from New York, and Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida. The bill would essentially require guards on the sides and front of all new tractor-trailers and update safety standards for underride guards on the rear of trucks to protect the drivers around them.
Catastrophic Truck Underride Crashes
A truck underride crash can be absolutely devastating, especially to those who are inside a passenger vehicle. Underride crashes typically occur when a smaller passenger vehicle slides fully or partially under a large truck or semi-trailer during a collision. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), in 2019 alone, more than 850 people died in crashes with the side or rear of a semi.
IIHS estimates 80% of nearly 7,000 deaths from crashes with the side or rear of a big rig involved some kind of underride where a car ended up under the semi or its trailer. These crashes could be catastrophic even at low speeds because the trailer’s undercarriage could shear the roof off of the passenger vehicle causing severe head and neck injuries to occupants including decapitation.
The European Union has required side underride guards on trucks since 2003. However, they are not required on U.S. roadways. A 2012 study by the IIHS found that strong side underride guards have the potential to reduce injury risk in about 75% of cases where a passenger vehicle occupant sustained a serious injury from an impact with the side of a large truck. The institute also found in 2017 that aftermarket side underride guards that are added to trucks prevented a mid-size car from sliding underneath the trailer even at 35 mph and 40 mph crash tests.
A Much-Needed Law
The legislation has the support of safety advocates and for good reason. It is a common-sense law where the changes can be executed without significant burdens to the trucking industry, which would help prevent hundreds of deaths and catastrophic injuries each year. Our truck accident attorneys completely support this legislation as we have for many years now. We hope this bipartisan bill succeeds and that this law is enacted very soon.