As the first session of the 115th U.S. Congress drew to a close this past December, a bipartisan group of lawmakers stepped up to introduce a new bill that would require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to mandate both side and re-engineered rear underride guards for all new semi-trailers. Led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D- N.Y.), submitters of the bill also included Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.) What they proposed is legislation that has been a long time in coming, as thousands have died during past decades as a result of their vehicle “sliding” under a semi-trailer in the course of a collision, and even more have been needlessly and critically injured as a result.
The new bill was inspired by the campaign of two mothers tragically affected by the current lack of underride protection found on most semi-trailers. Marianne Karth and Lois Durso have both seen the lives of their children cut short as the result of an underride crash with a tractor trailer. Yet the two women channeled their grief into a proactive movement to increase awareness as well as lobby for change. Marianne had already formed the foundation, AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety (named after her two daughters), and the two recently worked together to author the Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017 (Roya was the name of Lois’ daughter killed in an underride accident)—which served as a framework for Sen. Gillibrand. As she presented the bill for consideration in 2018, Gillibrand punctuated the need for such legislation by stating, “We require seatbelts; we require all these other safety standards, weight standards—all of it for safety reasons—and now with the lives of so many loved ones lost, it’s time for the industry to listen.”
I first wrote about the installment of such life-saving devices in reference to the unnecessary injury and death of cyclists in the event of a collision with a tractor-trailer. Currently, three major U.S. cities know for cyclist and pedestrian traffic—Boston, New York and Seattle—already require the use of side underride guards for certain large trucks to help prevent such accidents. The protective ability of these devices has already been proven—the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) began evaluating rear underride guards several years ago, and 2017 marked the first year for the independent, nonprofit organization to test side underride guards. Their research has helped to demonstrate how the use of strong underride guards (specifically the AngelWing from Airflow Deflector, Inc.) can prevent a car from going under a truck’s trailer during a side impact while triggering airbag and belt restraint devices to protect vehicle occupants.
The new bill to be reviewed by both the House and Senate was in part based on the results published by the IIHS, as they provided data that showed side underride guards as described above could reduce the risk of injury in a side collision with a semi-trailer by up to 75 percent.
Michael Leizerman is a truck accident attorney specializing in catastrophic multi-axle collisions. He understands all facets of truck accident litigation; including federal regulations, drug and alcohol testing and hours of service requirements. He has authored a treatise entitled Litigating Truck Accident Cases and often educates other attorneys on trucking laws and regulations. You can learn more about Leizerman & Associates by visiting their website, www.truckaccidents.com.
Michael Leizerman is a truck accident attorney specializing in catastrophic multi-axle collisions. He understands all facets of truck accident litigation; including federal regulations, drug and alcohol testing and hours of service requirements. He has authored a treatise entitled Litigating Truck Accident Cases and often educates other attorneys on trucking laws and regulations. You can learn more about Leizerman & Young by visiting their website, www.truckaccidents.com.