Two mothers who lost their children in side-underride crashes with tractor-trailers broke down after witnessing a crash test for trailer guards that revealed such technology could have saved their children’s lives.
Organized by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the crash tests showed how metal guards running alongside the bottom of trailers can effectively prevent cars and other smaller passenger vehicles from being sheared off at the top when striking a tractor-trailer from the side.
For Marianne Karth and Lois Durso, the tests results were bittersweet. Ms. Karth told Washington D.C.’s WUSA Channel 9 that she felt “thankful and excited” to see how the side underride guards mitigate crashes. “But there’s still that pain and that frustration that it wasn’t done before.”
Ms. Karth’s daughters AnnaLeah, 17, and Mary, 13, were killed in 2013 when a crash involving two tractor-trailers pushed the Ford Crown Victoria they were riding in into the side of one of the trucks. Both teens died soon after from their extensive crash injuries.
Ms. Durso lost her 26-year-old daughter Roya Sadigh in 2005 when the car she was riding in with her fiancé spun out of control and hit a tractor-trailer on its side. The car slid under the heavy truck, which ran over the trapped vehicle with its back wheels.
A year later, when visiting Europe with her younger daughter, Ms. Durso peered out a bus window and noticed all the trucks passing by were equipped with side-underride guards.
Upon returning home, she and Ms. Karth began lobbying legislators on Capitol Hill for laws that would require side guards and stronger rear guards on all tractor trailers. Preventing side-underride crashes alone would save more than 200 people per year, federal highway traffic safety statistics show.
The crash test the bereaved mothers watched involved side guards known as “angel wings” that are made by a company called Air Flow Deflector.
Although the tests are promising, don’t expect to see the guards appear on tractor trailers anytime soon. The trucking industry is pushing back against efforts to mandate the guards, saying they would add extra weight, which would lead to lighter loads, more trucks on the roads making deliveries, and more crashes.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety disagrees, maintaining there is no evidence to show that side-underride guards would lead to an increase commercial trucking activity.