New Documentary Examines Dangers of Underride Crashes

New Documentary Examines Dangers of Underride Crashes
A recent Frontline documentary titled “America’s Dangerous Trucks” highlighted some alarming statistics surrounding the tractor-trailers that we share the road with when traveling down roadways, and more specifically, the risks we all face of becoming accident victims. Below, we cover the dangers of underride crashes that the new documentary examines in an effort to call attention to these preventable accidents.

How Cars and Trucks Make for a Poor Match

Each day, American motorists share the road with millions of big trucks as they travel along our country’s roadways. Those trucks can weigh as much as 20 times that of passenger cars. According to the above-referenced documentary, at least 150,000 individuals suffer injuries, and at least 5,000 deaths occur annually in semi-truck-involved crashes. The documentary asserts that several persons die in our country each year after becoming involved in underride accidents.

Efforts Made To Curb Underride Crash Rates

As mentioned above, underride accidents are completely preventable. However, the trucking industry and regulators have impeded the stopping of underrides. Safety and victims’ advocates have long pushed for big players in the trucking industry and government officials alike to take measures to minimize these collision rates with little success. Some of the lobbying or legislative measures forwarded over the years and chronicled in the documentary include:

  • 1950s: Federal officials began requiring a steel attached to the bottom of a trailer type of rear guard on trailers, but there was no strength-testing requirement, and they routinely failed.
  • 1960s: Famed actress Jayne Mansfield passed away in an underride accident while her kids in the rear seat survived, which motivated legislators to revisit discussions about improving the effectiveness of rear guards, but conversations went nowhere. There are even proposals recommending the elimination of underride guards during this decade. Government regulators also considered making side guards mandatory during this decade but opted not to on the grounds that they posed potential harm to truckers (which was the narrative trucking lobbyists were pushing).
  • 1981: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposes that trucks have stronger guards installed on them, with estimates for the upgrade being $50. The trucking industry counters and said the cost would be $127. A new underride rule was announced, and soon thereafter, Ronald Reagan became President, attempted to balance the budget and slashed the NHTSA staff in half, making it so that the agency couldn’t enforce the rule.
  • 1982: The American Trucking Association (ATA) drafts documentation to truck manufacturers in which they refer to the NHTSA’s rear truck guard as “ill-conceived, expensive, ineffectual.” The ATA also forwards the idea in that document that implementing the use of these guards would cost $2.3 billion and only save 60 lives across 14 years, thus too high of a cost for saving so few lives.
  • 1998: A requirement for trucks to have rear truck ride guards was first instituted. A Virginia lab run by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts a test on various ideations of rear underride guards that meet NHTSA standards. Findings are that most fail at 35 MPH. Only a small handful pass.
  • 2004: The Truck-Trailers Manufacturing Association begins compiling a list of defense strategies to utilize in responding to side underride crash lawsuits. Members agree it’s best to band together and aggressively fight these lawsuits as opposed to simply implementing a “fix” to address the problem (underride side guards).
  • 2019: A U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) report sheds light on how underride accidents are highly underreported. This occurs because there is no streamlined process that states follow in classifying accidents. Only 17 states have a checkbox on their report for underrides. Others may classify them as other types of crashes.
  • 2022: Although recommended much sooner by the IIHS, trailer companies didn’t start selling trucks featuring stronger guards until now. This is the same year that the NHTSA suggested updated rear guard and data collection standards.
  • 2023: In April of this year, the proposed new NHTSA side guard rule opened up for public commentary. The response time frame was set to close in late June.

As you might surmise, a lot of people unnecessarily lost their lives in underrides during these years of regulatory and legislative wrangling before the institution of rules that could have saved their lives.

Getting Help If an Underride Collision Upended Your Life

Individuals hurt in these types of wrecks suffer such catastrophic injuries that they generally aren’t able to return to life as they knew it before. And, while losing a loved one prematurely is never easy to come to terms with, the horrific circumstances preceding their death can be particularly hard for family members to accept — especially since simple precautions could have prevented it.

Here at Trucking Injury Law Group, we exclusively handle truck accidents. Why does this matter to you? It’s important because we know industry players and the tactics they employ to deny liability and, when inevitable, as is often the case with underride crashes, to keep settlements as low as possible.

Our legal team is composed of attorneys who are strong advocates for injury victims, who fight to ensure they get fair and just compensation in cases of trucking company or trucker negligence. Let us help you do the same. We offer free consultations to discuss potential cases.