Underride Crashes Are a Gruesome Mess More Than 50 Years in the Making

Underride Truck Crashes Kill and Cause Catastrophic InjuriesIn 1967, Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield was killed along with two friends when her driver rear-ended a tractor-trailer in heavy fog. It was the first high-profile accident involving underride incursion, and the incident spurred the first calls for safety measures that would prevent grisly underride accidents; rear underride guards, now mandatory, are still called Mansfield bars. In 1983, James Mooney was killed when his car rode under a tractor-trailer that was stopped across a dark country road; his daughter’s advocacy work eventually required all truck trailers to be equipped with reflective tape.

Commercial truck safety requirements are inadequate

In 2005, Roya Sadigh and her fiancé were killed after losing control of their vehicle in a snowstorm. Their vehicle spun underneath a trailer and was run over by the rear wheels. This accident happened despite the incremental safety advances in the last fifty years, and because the majority of the trailers on the road are still almost completely unprotected against underride incursions. In fact, the safety requirements in the United States are so incredibly lax that most of the industry is ahead of the regulations; manufacturers are complying with more stringent regulations in Canada and the European Union, further highlighting the inadequacy of US safety considerations.

The most common trailer towed by commercial tractors on the road is 53 feet long and almost 9 feet wide. While the entire base of the trailer is wrapped in reflective tape, the rear-protecting Mansfield bar covers, at best, 90% of the back of the trailer. The guards protect only against direct rear-end truck accidents; at certain angles, the sides of the guard can actually penetrate the cabin of a passenger car and cause serious injuries. So, except for about 8 feet at the rear of the trailer, there are no safety mechanisms to prevent underride collisions on the other 107 feet of trailer. In other words, Mansfield bars only protect about 7% of the perimeter of the trailer.

Safety first should mean safety for all

A year after Roya Sadigh and her fiancé were killed, her mother, Lois Durso, was visiting Europe with her younger daughter. She noticed that every commercial truck she saw on her trip had side underride guards, and began researching the safety technology. Despite years of high-profile accidents, years of advocacy efforts, and hundreds and hundreds of deaths, definitive action remains elusive.

NBC News reported, “[The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mandated rear guards in 1998, but] Side guards are still not required, even though the NTSB, which investigates accidents, concluded that they would reduce injuries and deaths on America’s roads. It issued a non-binding recommendation to the NHTSA in April 2014 that all new trailers have side protection systems. The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, the industry’s lobbying arm, has opposed a side guard requirement for years.”

So here we are; a growing body of evidence that spans more than half a century defines a need. Stronger regulations in other countries are actually (not theoretically) reducing serious injuries and fatalities. Hundreds of people are dying every year in underride accidents, and still there is no requirement for an existing technology that could prevent these unnecessary and tragic deaths. Safety advocates cite statistics; consumer protection agencies file petitions; at McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips LLC, we litigate aggressively for victims of unnecessary tragedy.

If your loved one was injured or killed in a commercial truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages and other damages. The experienced South Carolina commercial truck accident attorneys at McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC can evaluate your case and help get you the compensation you deserve. Call 803-327-7800 or contact us today for a free consultation.