Anita Bomgaars was just 19 when a tractor-trailer entered her lane and crashed into her car head-on, resulting in an underride crash that left her multiple debilitating injuries.
Now 63, the Iowa resident has become one of the leading advocates of the Stop Underrides Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in 2017 that would require tractor-trailers and other heavy trucks to be equipped with side underride guards. The bill also seeks to raise standards for the already-required rear-underride guards that all tractor-trailers have.
Ms. Bomgaars told the Sioux City Journal that she was driving from her parents’ home in Sioux Center, Iowa, to Orange City to start a new job when the tractor-trailer collided with her Chevy Vega. The impact spun her car around and lodged it under the rear of the tractor-trailer.
She underwent a five-hour surgery to repair both legs, which were crushed in the accident, as well as a broken pelvis, ruptured spleen, and ripped intestines. She also had glass embedded all over her body, the Sioux City Journal reported.
“Through the years, I’ve had 12 different surgeries — knee replacements, plates put in my feet, just a lot of different orthopedic surgeries,” Ms. Bomgaars told the Sioux City Journal. She said that now that she is in her 60s, she is having more difficulties with her damaged legs.
Two years ago, a serendipitous meeting at a South Florida bible study group connected Ms. Bomgaars with Lois Durso, one of the authors of the Stop Underrides Act. Ms. Bomgaars had been talking about her 1974 crash in connection with the topic of death and dying when Ms. Durso, whose daughter was killed in a 2006 underride crash, leaned across the table and said, “You survived a truck underride?”
That was the first time Ms. Bomgaars had heard the term “underride” used to describe the crash that nearly took her life. Since then, she has become an advocate of the Stop Underrides Act, which is stuck in both the U.S. House and Senate. Her support of the act has united her not only with Ms. Durso, but with Marianne Karth, a co-author of the bill who lost two of her daughters in a rear underride crash in 2013.
Crash tests and data have proven that side underride guards are effective in preventing horrific crashes that kill more than 200 people a year and maim hundreds more, but many U.S. legislators are beholden to the trucking lobby and its deep pockets.
“At this point, (the bill) hasn’t come out of committee and that’s been a frustration,” Ms. Bomgaars told the Sioux City Journal. “It’s all about politics, because many of the people on that committee have taken a lot of lobbying money. Even though they know it’s the right thing to do, they won’t let it come out of their committee.”