What is Being Done to Stop Underrides?

Most of us have seen eerie photographs or video footage on television of cars with the tops crushed or ripped completely off after colliding with a semi-truck. Some of us have even witnessed the carnage first hand. In many instances, the destruction results from an “underride,” the term used to describe a motor vehicle that collides with and slides under the trailer of a tractor-trailer truck. At that point, the passenger vehicle can be run over, dragged, crushed, and otherwise mangled. And underrides are nothing new. Hundreds of people continue to die yearly as a result of them. Given the clear and obvious danger presented by underrides, it’s natural to ask if anything is being done to prevent them.

Are There Any Laws to Protect against Underrides?

Regulators and the trucking industry have long known about the dangers associated with underrides. The first federal regulation addressing the issue, promulgated in 1953 by the then-existing Bureau of Motor Carriers of the Interstate Commerce Commission, still exists and requires heavy trucks, semi-trailers, and trailers to have a rear-end device for preventing underrides from the rear of the truck.

From time to time, regulators have considered ways to improve regulation. In 1996, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) implemented a final rule which established two safety standards. NHTSA’s stated purpose was to reduce injuries and fatalities resulting from passenger vehicles colliding with the rear of semi-trailers. One of the safety standards requires that most new trailers and semi-trailers of a certain size have a rear impact guard. The other safety standard set technical performance guidelines for rear impact guards. These requirements were considered to upgrade the prior rules and to better protect automobile passengers.

Current Danger and Side Impacts

The laws discussed above were designed to protect rear-end underrides. But what about collisions with the side of tractor-trailer trucks? Unfortunately, at this time, there is no similar protection for side-impact crashes. And it’s not like there isn’t a problem. According to an NBC News report, more than 200 people die every year as the result of side underrides. Of course, many more are injured.

Between 2001 and 2003, more than 15,000 people were injured in side-impact accidents with tractor-trailer trucks. The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent federal investigative agency, has both concluded that side underride protection systems would reduce injuries and deaths and has urged NHTSA to require such protective systems. Legislation was introduced in Congress in 2017, which would require side underride protection, but to date, it has not become law.

Call with Questions

At this point, it is unclear whether Congress will take steps to help prevent side underrides and other accidents related to semi-trucks. Even if our legislators fail to act, one would hope that the trucking industry and trucking companies would take all reasonable steps to protect the motoring public. And certainly, some trucking companies do everything reasonably within their power to take reasonable precautions.

Unfortunately, some companies and drivers do not act reasonably. At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we believe that society and all of our loved ones can only be truly protected when those who are unreasonable are held accountable for both their wrongful acts and failures to act. If you have questions about an accident with a semi-truck, please call us for a free consultation. Our experienced lawyers can help you investigate an accident and protect your rights. Or, if you only have questions, we’re happy to answer them.

Helpful Links:

Legal Examiner article – “Schumer Renews Call on Congress to Pass the ‘Stop Underrides Act’” http://www.legalexaminer.com/tractor-trailer-accidents/schumer-renews-call-on-congress-to-pass-the-stop-underrides-act/


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