On Thanksgiving Day, November 24th, 2004, Lois Durso received the call that every parent fears. Her 26-year-old daughter, Roya, who had decided to spend Thanksgiving Day with her fiancé’s family, was involved in accident in Indiana. Snow had accumulated making the roadway slippery and her car slid under the side of a semi tractor-trailer. The rear wheels of the trailer crushed her car and Roya was killed. In 2014, Marianne Karth, survived a rear underride crash in Georgia, but it unfortunately took the lives of her two teenage daughters, 17-year-old AnnaLeah & 13-year-old Mary. Since their losses, both mothers have been fighting a “David & Goliath-type” battle to get side guards mandated and rear guards made stronger. (To learn more about their powerful stories & impressive unwavering efforts, visit www.stopunderrides.org & annaleahmary.com.)
An “underride crash” occurs when a passenger vehicle slides under the body of a large truck, such as a semi-trailer. Underride collisions are often the most horrific and deadly type of car crashes. They are often fatal even at low speeds and even in cars with 5-star crash ratings & the latest top safety features. Often the roofs of the vehicles are sheared off; in many cases the occupants are decapitated. Every year underride collisions claim hundreds of lives in the United States. As repeatedly pointed out by Durso & numerous others, until the recently proposed legislation, “U.S. regulators have debated for decades about how to stop the tragedy of underride deaths — including, since 1969, and the possibility of requiring underride protection to be added to the sides of large trucks. But they have not done so, even though engineers have already found ways to solve this problem.”
There are side underride collisions and rear underride collisions. Side underride collisions usually happen at night or during low sun-angle conditions and when a truck driver is either attempting to cross or turn onto a street or highway, is attempting a U-turn, or is trying to cross traffic. For a video demonstration of how a side underride collision can occur, click here.
Studies and pilot programs have shown that a simple barrier attached to the lower area of a truck, called an ‘underride guard,’ would help prevent a car from sliding underneath a truck in an accident. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has concluded that mandating side underride guards would save lives and has recommended mandating them to NHTSA since 2014. However, under current federal law, underride guards are not required to be on the sides or front of trucks. Underride guards are already required for the back of a truck, but the standards are outdated.
In December, an important bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress aimed at saving motorists from deadly underride crashes with tractor-trailers and other trucks. This bill, introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is entitled the “Stop Underrides Act of 2017.” The proposed legislation would require underride guards on the sides and front of a truck and update the outdated standards for underride guards on the back of trucks. It would also ensure that the annual inspection for all large trucks includes underride guards as part of the inspection and would require the Department of Transportation to review underride standards every five years to evaluate the need for changes in response to advancements in technology. The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 is endorsed by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the National Safety Council.
Borgess Law, LLC supports this important legislation and applauds the unwavering efforts of advocates like Durso and Karth to require guards that could have easily saved the beautiful lives of Roya Sadigh, AnnaLeah Karth, Mary Karth and countless others.
Pamela A. Borgess is the founding partner of Borgess Law, LLC which represents families of those who have lost loved ones in trucking and motor vehicle accidents and is a passionate advocate for safer cars and roads. For more information about truck underride regulation and accidents, contact her at (567) 455-5955 or by email [email protected].