Federal regulations require semi trucks to be equipped with bars on the back of trailers to prevent passenger vehicles from going under the trailer in the event of a rear-end collision. Such bars are not, however, required on the sides of semi truck trailers. This results in hundreds of side underride accidents across the United States every year.
A Columbus truck accident attorney can help Ohio underride accident victims file insurance claims and access compensation for their injuries.
The Surprising History of Underride Bar Regulations
Underride bar requirements came about from an unlikely source: actress Jayne Mansfield. The celebrity died in a June 1967 car accident in which the Buick she was riding in collided with the semi truck in front of it. The Buick underrode the semi truck, and all three adults in the front seat were killed. The Car Connection reports that Congress enacted requirements for underride prevention bars (known as "Mansfield bars") shortly after her death.
Mansfield bars are not, however, required on the sides or front of a semi truck. Car and Driver reports that this resulted in 301 deaths caused by side underride accidents in 2015 alone. Moreover, Mansfield bars only protect vehicles from rear underrides when the passenger vehicle hits the back of the semi truck squarely on the back-end.
The Car Connection published statements from a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which reported that in crashes involving only a part of the rear portion of a semi truck, "most trailers fail to prevent potentially deadly underride."
Hope for More Effective Underride Prevention Bar Regulations
In spite of these regulatory problems, there is good news for road user safety. A bipartisan bill has been introduced in Congress regarding underride safety. The Commercial Carrier Journal reports that the Stop Underrides Act would not only require underride bars on the sides of trailers and front of semi trucks, but also update requirements for rear guards. This legislation carries the potential to reduce underrides at all potential points of impact on a semi truck and its trailer.
This legislation could have an immediate and dramatic impact on Ohio families who are devastated by underride accidents. Many tractor-trailers on the road today lack side underride protection entirely, and even the side underride guards that do exist are generally intended to prevent underride accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians, not passenger cars. Updating the requirements would be a huge step forward for road safety in Ohio and nationwide.
Underride accidents present many complicated legal issues. Liability for an underride accident may fall to a negligent truck driver, a negligent passenger vehicle driver, a trailer manufacturer, or a transportation company that puts unsafe semi truck trailers on the road. A Columbus truck accident attorney can help underride victims sort through these legal issues in order to access compensation for their injuries.