Side underride crashes aren’t just among the most common types of crashes involving tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles; they’re one of the most gruesome.
These crashes occur when a car or other type of vehicle slams into the side of a tractor trailer and crashes underneath the vehicle, usually after having its top sheared off by the high clearance between the bottom of the trailer and the road. Victims of side underride crashes are often decapitated.
Government data shows that more than 200 people are killed every year in side underride crashes with tractor trailers, which could largely be prevented with the addition of side guards to prevent cars from going underneath a trailer.
According to NBC News, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a federal agency that investigates commercial transportation accidents and makes safety recommendations to the government, has called for a side-guard requirement for years, but without success.
Critics of proposed side-guard requirements argue that high costs, technical challenges, and added weight would impede the trucking industry.
NBC News followed the money trail and found that key legislators who are best positioned to change transportation safety laws are on the receiving end of large donations from trucking industry lobbyists, who pay millions of dollars to keep a side-guard requirement from being passed.
According to NBC News, Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, head of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee since 2015, received $830,341 from the transportation industry overall in the most recent six-year period, more than any other legislator.
Rear guards on tractor-trailers have been required since 1998, years after the death of actress Jayne Mansfield, who struck the back of a tractor-trailer outside New Orleans in June 1967, killing her, two others, and her dog. The fatal crash first drew national attention to the problem.
Thousands of lives undoubtedly have been saved since the rear guards, more commonly known as Mansfield bars, were mandated. But there is no indication side-guards will be required on U.S. tractor-trailers as they are in Europe, especially under an administration that is staunchly against mandating any new regulations, regardless of safety.
Source: NBC News