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Federal lawmakers address the dangers of underride collisions

The horrific sight likely will stay with you for the rest of your life. Now, you know why traffic along the highway came to a near standstill. First, you saw the flashing lights, the police and rescue cars and then the aftermath of a collision between a large truck that weighed several tons and a smaller car.

Underneath the side of the truck was lodged the small car, crunched almost like an empty aluminum beverage can. Its top sheared off, and debris strewn along the road. You wondered how anyone could survive such a terrible accident; an underride accident when another vehicle slides or skids underneath the rear or side of a big-rig truck.

Stop Underrides Act

It has been more than 50 years since actress Jayne Mansfield died in an underride collision in Louisiana. The 1957 death of this notable movie star of the time prompted federal lawmakers to take action, requiring rear metal underride guards installed on all trailers. They took that initial step, which just was not big enough, while fighting the trucking industry for decades.

Since then, federal lawmakers have faced aggressive lobbying efforts from the trucking industry, which does not believe additional safety legislation is necessary. But, earlier this year, the U.S. Senate introduced its third and latest version of a safety bill that addresses preventing these horrific crashes.

Introduced in March, the Stop Underrides Act would require the installation of side and front underride guards on newly built large trucks. In addition, the legislation calls for safety improvements on the already required underride guards. One concession safety advocates made: The proposal does not apply to the 16 million big-rig trucks currently crisscrossing U.S. roads.

Many die each year in such accidents

Safety advocates remain optimistic about the legislation. Each year, hundreds of drivers and their passengers die in underride collisions. An average of 219 people died in underride collisions on our country’s roads from 2008 to 2017, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). However, the GAO believes that that number is low due to inconsistencies in how state and municipal governments record their data on these crashes.

Washington is not known to move quickly. Addressing concerns about underride collisions is one of many examples. However, this time around, many Americans hold out hope for a better law.

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