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Side Underride Truck Accidents Could Be Prevented by Mandatory Side Guards

By: Allan M. Siegel

Side underride accidents are among the most disastrous type of collision on our roadways. These wrecks occur when passenger vehicles crash into the side of a tractor-trailer and become forced, lodged, or crumpled underneath the trailer. Often, these crashes result in extensive damage to vehicles and severe injuries to drivers and passengers in them, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, side underride accidents kill over 200 people each year.

Truck Accident Attorney in Washington, DCAlthough side underride wrecks injure and kill hundreds of people every year, federal officials have been slow to stem the tide and pass safety measures that could very well prevent a number of these tragedies. For example, the NHTSA requires steel safety guards to be mounted to the back of trucks in order to prevent rear underride accidents, which can also cause devastating and fatal injuries. Still, no such legislation has been passed to make side guard rails a mandatory feature, despite a growing amount of public concern, fundraising, and a formal recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Learn more about efforts to make side guards mandatory here.

Underride accidents have been a known danger for decades, especially after Actress Jayne Mansfield and 3 others were killed in a 1967 rear underride crash after their vehicle ran completely under the trailer of a commercial truck. Even though there were calls to implement guardrails following Mansfield’s death, it was not until 1998 that the NHTSA mandated safety guards, also known as Mansfield bars, on only the rear end of trailers.

So what is the reason lawmakers have been sluggish in passing safety regulations they know can save lives? A lot of it has to do with trucking lobbyists, including the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, that oppose mandatory side guard requirements. These lobbyists pour substantial amounts of money into politics and politicians in their efforts to fight safety standards that increase costs. They claim side guard requirements would be costly technical challenges to implement, and that they could weaken areas of a trailer or increase a vehicle’s weight. This is despite the fact that side guard rails are already being used successfully by some trucking companies in America and many companies abroad, and that there are lightweight alternatives available.

Ultimately, the debate over side guards boils down to the uncomforting fact that trucking manufacturers, commercial truck operators, and the federal government are all well aware of the extensive harm caused by side underride accidents and trailer design, as well as a proven safety measure that can reduce injuries and deaths, yet still do nothing about it. If all trucks on our roadways were to be fitted with these life-saving steel bars, the NTSB says, there would be fewer injuries and deaths on America’s roads. That’s reason enough to take action.

At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our law firm has been advocating on behalf of the injured and the wronged for more than 40 years. During that time, we have seen the tragic consequences innocent victims can suffer when companies and corporations fight measures and avoid costs at the expense of public safety. As we support efforts to make side guards a requirement, we also offer our support and services to victims who wish to fight back against the negligence and profit-motivated interests of private powers that injured them, and continue to injure others.

If you wish to discuss a truck accident anywhere in Washington, DC, Virginia, or Maryland, contact our firm for a free consultation.