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Lawmakers consider legislation on underride collisions

If you have seen the aftermath of an underride collision, you will never forget it. These are road crashes in which a car or smaller vehicle skids or slides underneath the side or rear of a large tractor-trailer. The windshield smashes, top of the car often sheared off, trapping and crushing the vehicle underneath the several ton large truck.

Horrific devastation, the likely loss of life and catastrophic injuries such as skull fractures and spinal cord injuries are not uncommon. Seat belts and air bags offer no protection. However, there is one potential solution: metal bars known as underride guards installed on tractor-trailers. Now, federal lawmakers, once again, have revisited legislation that requires new trucks be equipped with side and front underride guards.

Installing metal guards on new trucks

In early March, the Stop Underrides Act was introduced for the third time in Washington. Besides requiring metal barriers on the front and sides of new tractor-trailers, the legislation improves the standards on a truck’s rear underride guards, required by law.

Safety advocates – many of whom have had loved ones killed in underride collisions – have long lobbied for improved safety rules. The trucking industry has balked, however, contending that the legislation would prove ineffective and too costly for trucking companies.

In getting the bill this far, safety advocates made a major concession. The updated legislation only calls for the installation of underride guards on new large trucks. The millions of trucks already on the nation’s roads are exempt.

Hundreds killed each year

Hundreds of motorists and passengers die each year in underride collisions. On average, 219 such fatalities occurred during the 10-year period of 2008 to 2017, reported the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Those deaths likely are underreported, though. The GAO noted certain discrepancies in the ways municipalities and states collect data.

Regardless, underride collisions continue to remain a problem on U.S. roads. Survivors often have permanent disabilities such as a brain injury, quadriplegia and paraplegia. Safety measures such as the proposed federal bill may prevent more tragedies.