Can Requiring Stronger Safety Equipment Save Lives?


Trucking accidents often end in tragedy. When a passenger car is faced with a behemoth 40-ton big rig, it’s evident that most victims don’t walk away unscathed. In fact, most are faced with serious if not fatal injuries.

Underride Collisions

One of the most dangerous collisions involving a passenger car and a semi-truck is known as a truck underride collision.

In an underride accident, a passenger vehicle collides with the trailer of a semi-truck and becomes lodged underneath the trailer. The passenger car’s roof is often sheared completely off from the impact.

One of the Most Dangerous Accidents on the Road

An underride collision can occur when a truck driver is attempting to cross onto a street or highway, attempting a U-turn, or trying to back through traffic. Because of their size, these trucks move much more slowly than passenger vehicles and truck drivers may assume they are visible to oncoming traffic. This is not always the case, and car drivers might not see a truck crossing in front of them until it is too late. The passenger vehicle can become stuck underneath the big rig and even dragged for miles before the trucker realizes what has happened.

stronger rearguards proposed
Stronger Rearguards Proposed

Because of the prevalence and devastation of underride collisions in particular, three democratic members of congress have put together a bill to address them by requiring rear and side guards on semi-trucks. The bill will face quite an uphill challenge going against the heavily influenced trucking industry in Washington D.C.

Victim’s Mothers Call for Increased Safety Equipment

Passion runs high for two mothers who lost children in underride collisions and are stopping at nothing to ensure safety measures are implemented to prevent these types of horrific accidents from continuing.

Marianne Karth and Lois Durso have been going door-to-door on Capitol Hill in an attempt to gather support for their cause. The mothers’ fight focuses on a debate about whether semi-trucks should be required to have additional safety equipment. They are required by law to have a rear guard, which is a steel bar designed to prevent cars from traveling underneath the trailer during a crash. However, this design has actually led to deadly crashes and the steel bar has taken the tops off cars in many instances. In the instance of Karth’s daughter’s accident, the steel guard came off during impact, instantly killing her daughter. Both Karth and Durso are pushing for stronger rear guards which they believe could have saved their daughters’ lives.

Getting Support in DC For Stronger Rear Guards

Rep. congressman Mark DeSaulnier admits, “We should have been doing this a long time ago.” DeSaulnier stated that it’s time to pass semi-truck underride legislation that requires stronger rear guards on tractor trailers, and for the first-time side guards on semi-trucks as well. He is currently working with Rep. Steve Cohen and Sen. Kristin Gillibrand to enact safety implementations.

Recent studies have shown the guards can save lives. Yet the number of potential lives saved has remained unclear because of gaps in the reporting of these types of accidents. This is one of the issues DeSaulnier hopes to address.

The Cost-Benefit of Saving Lives

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not supported the proposed implementation of side guards on tractor trailers due to its cost benefit analysis, which projected the cost of side guards to exceed $9.6 million. This amount was established by the NHTSA as the threshold for a reasonable amount to spend per life saved.

The President of the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association explained that adding the weight of new guards to trailers would force trucking companies to remove payload and add even more tractor trailers on the road, supposedly negating its safety benefit.

Although some manufacturers are now actively producing commercial vehicles with stronger guards, the fight in Washington continues. In a statement, DeSauliner said, “To say ‘no, we’re not interested in looking at it or the cost benefit doesn’t work,’ I think is not just an affront to the families that have gone through this tragedy, but it’s an affront to anybody who’s lost a loved one that shouldn’t have.”

We’re Here to Help

If you or a loved one’s life has been impacted by a trucking accident, the truck accident attorneys at Fried Goldberg are here to help. More than 95 percent of our practice is dedicated to handling accidents with big rig trucks and commercial vehicles.

Call us today at 877-591-1801 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation to talk about your legal options. We are ready to help you make the best choice for you and your family.

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