Congress hopes to address underride collisions again

Manufacturing plays an important role in Alabama’s economy and those products must be transported to markets around the country. That is why you see so many big-rig trucks hauling freight along the state’s roads and highways. But with the ubiquitous presence of these mammoth vehicles that weigh several tons, the chances of roadside collisions remain.

Among the most dangerous types of accidents involving large trucks is the often fatal underride collision. Such collisions occur when a car or other smaller vehicle slides underneath the rear or side of the big-rig truck, leading to catastrophic or fatal injuries. Federal lawmakers, once again, are revisiting this subject. Safety advocates contend that the move is long overdue.

Guards on truck’s front and sides

In March, the U.S. Senate reintroduced the Stop Underrides Act, requiring the installation of safety underride guards on the front and sides of newly made tractor-trailers. It marked the third time that lawmakers will consider such legislation. In addition, the bill proposes new guidance geared toward improving a truck’s rear-guards, already required by law.

In this third go-round of the legislation, safety advocates acknowledge that concessions were made. The primary one is that just newly manufactured tractor-trailers would have guards installed. This does not address the millions of trucks currently on U.S. roads.

Each year, hundreds of people die in underride collisions. An accurate number has not been pinpointed. However, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that in the 10 years from 2008 to 2017, an average of 219 people died as the result of underride collisions. The number accounted for less than 1% of the country’s road deaths during that time. But the GAO suggested that underride collisions remain underreported because of differences in data collection.

Among all large truck accidents – including underride collisions – nearly 5,000 died and an estimated 151,000 sustained injuries on U.S. roads in 2018. Alabama accounted for 122 of the fatalities, reported the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

U.S. lawmakers are taking the necessary steps to promote safety and potentially minimize underride collisions. If this legislation succeeds, it just might be an effective tool that saves many lives.

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