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Trucking accident could lead to legislative change

A July accident resulted on the death of four people in northern New York when two cars slid under a jackknifed semi on the interstate. The accident prompted a bill for a law that would impact tractor trailer safety requirements.

The term under-ride may be unfamiliar, but it describes a vehicle’s hood sliding underneath a tractor trailer while the windshield and occupant crash into the side of the trailer. Under-ride occurs in about half of the fatal crashes between tractor trailers and cars. In 2015 under-ride resulted in about 750 deaths. What makes under-ride accidents so deadly is that safety mechanisms, such as seatbelts and air bags are not effective because the roof of the vehicle can be shorn off upon impact.

A starlet’s death contributes to highway safety

Jayne Mansfield inadvertently contributed to highway safety after her untimely death from a rear under-ride collision in 1967. Her death resulted in the creation of rear under-ride guards, commonly called Mansfield bars, which eventually became required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The proposed law would require side guards underneath the undersides of trailers to prevent under-ride. Currently, the trucking industry favors other efforts to avoid crashes, such as automatic emergency braking and collision warning systems.

Safety verses aerodynamics

Under-ride guards are reinforced, often with metal ribbing, to be able to withstand impact. Aerodynamic side skirting, used only to prevent air under trailers, is not.

In studies where cars were traveling 35 miles per hour the under-ride guards stopped impact, but many fatal tractor trailer accidents occur on freeways at speeds of 65 miles per hour or more. In high speed collisions, the guards would not prevent under-ride, but fatalities might still be avoided by slowing the impact to the underside of the trailer.

A car accident can happen so quickly, often with victims having no time to react. Survivors may choose to file a wrongful death suit. When a loved one is killed, just compensation will not bring them back, but it can help with any expenses incurred due to the accident.

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