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Lawmakers fight a deadly type of crash: the truck underride

Accidents involving trucks often have the most tragic outcomes. The average car is no match against the size and weight of a commercial truck. Tractor trailers in particular can be extremely dangerous because the lower half of cars can slide underneath the vehicle. This type of crash is called an “underride” and is usually fatal for the car’s passengers.

The severity of these accidents inspired two senators and two representatives to introduce a new bill to Congress last December. This bill, The Stop Underrides Act of 2017, would require guards on the front and sides of all trucks and tractor trailers. Congress has yet to officially vote on the bill.

Current regulation

Right now, the federal law only requires guards on the back of trucks, which may prevent rear-end collisions from becoming underrides. However, many of these deadly accidents occur when a car hits the side of the trailer. By making side guards mandatory, lawmakers hope to greatly decrease the number of preventable fatalities.

Opposition to the bill

Although this bill might save the lives of many drivers, truck manufacturers have their reservations. Additional side and front guards would increase the overall weight of the truck by 1,600 pounds, according to one truck driver. While that sounds heavy, it is only 2% of the total weight that these trucks can carry. Congress will have to figure out whether to impose this regulation on truckers and companies in order to protect drivers.

A very personal origin story

When lawmakers and manufacturers debate regulatory requirements, the emotional factor is often set aside. In fact, this bill holds a highly personal value to the two mothers who wrote its first draft.

Both of the mothers lost their children in underride crashes nearly a decade apart. They saw that the law fell short of protecting them from harm, so they contacted lawmakers to work out a way to improve the safety of other sons and daughters.

If the bill passes and accomplishes its goal, there may be fewer tragic underride accidents and more crash survivors.

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