Hundreds die each year in underride collisions with large trucks

Posted on June 24, 2021

Driving along the highway, you discover that traffic has slowed to a snail’s pace. The reason: a road collision up ahead. When you drive by the wreckage, you glance and then study it with some trepidation. It was a sight that you would never forget.

What you saw was the gruesome results of an underride collision in which a car slid or careened underneath the side of a big-rig truck. The smaller vehicle was crushed, and its top sheared off. You suspect that no one could have survived such a horrific crash. If there were any survivors, they are bound to have sustained catastrophic injuries and face a lifetime of rehabilitation and medical care.

Congress confronts issue once again

Annually, hundreds of drivers and their passengers die in underride collisions. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study in 2019 regarding these terrible accidents. The GAO noted that an average of 219 people died in underride collisions during the 10-year period of 2008 to 2017. The government agency, however, admitted that those numbers likely are underreported stemming from the differing data collection methods of states and municipalities.

Many members of the public continue to wonder just when federal and state lawmakers plan to address safety concerns related to underride accidents. Well, in March, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have made a third try to pass safety legislation known as the Stop Underrides Act.

If passed, the law would require the installation of metal underride guards on the fronts and sides of new large trucks. The newest version of the bill also improves specific safety standards of a big-rig truck’s rear underride guards, which already are required by law to be in place.

In order to get the latest version of the bill introduced, safety advocates and the families of victims made certain concessions. The main one is that the law applies only to newly built trucks. The law does not apply to the millions of large trucks already on U.S. roads.

For years, the trucking industry has fought such legislation, contending that such a law would be ineffective and unnecessarily increase costs for trucking companies and truck drivers.

If representatives of the trucking industry would regularly meet with families who had loved ones die in underride collisions, they would better understand the tragedy and heartache. The proposed federal legislation represents a start.