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Truck Underride Collisions

Photo of Randy Sorrels

On July 6th in northern New York, two cars skidded underneath a milk tanker truck that had jackknifed on Interstate 81. The truck was attempting to avoid hitting a deer when it lost control. Tragically, this incident resulted in the loss of four lives, including a doctor that was in a stalled ambulance on the interstate. This is just one of many examples of tractor-trailer accidents that involve passenger vehicles.

With the high number of these incidents being reported, there is growing concern regarding tractor-trailer safety regulations. Currently, tractor-trailers are required to be equipped with underride guards, which are intended to prevent cars from travelling under the truck during a collision. This idea was implemented after the gruesome crash involving actress Jayne Mansfield. Mansfield's car struck the rear of a tractor-trailer, leaving her car completely mangled and killing her instantly. Mansfield's death, along with hundreds of others, led to the National Highway Traffic Administration requiring big rigs to utilize underride bars. You may hear these bars referred to as "Mansfield bars". While these bars were a giant leap in the right direction, auto safety advocates have pinpointed another gap in tractor-trailer safety regulations. First of all, big rigs are only required to have rear guards. Additionally, single unit trucks do not require these guards. Secondly, federal regulations do not require tractor-trailers to have side guards.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that under-ride occurred in roughly half of the fatal crashes between cars and big rigs. According to the Institute's statistics, this is about 750 deaths in 2015. Auto safety advocates efforts to push for stronger rear guards and add side guards for tractor-trailers have been in the works, but so far no new regulations have been enacted. These additional regulations remain in limbo due to the fact that trucking industry insists that adding side guards is not a simple fix. There are many unforeseen commercial and technical challenges that must be taken into consideration. Regardless, whether these considerations take effect or not, we should always be cautious around big rigs.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a trucking accident, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz today by calling 713-222-7211 or 1-800-870-9584 for your free consultation.

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