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Truck underride accidents continue to claim lives

Even with advanced crash avoidance technology in many trucks and better safety features in most vehicles, trucking accidents continue to claim far too many lives in Delaware and elsewhere. Safety advocates say it’s, in part, due to ineffective regulations on the trucking industry.

Because of the trucking industry’s powerful lobbyists and bureaucratic red tape, it’s hard to keep existing safety measures in place let alone get any new regulations adopted. 

As we discussed in our last post, Congress is even considering a measure that would temporarily suspend regulations that were put into place in 2012 in effort to curb trucking accidents caused by truck driver fatigue.

In another example of ineffective regulations, truck underride accidents have been a known problem on American roads for decades, and safety measures have only slightly improved since they were originally adopted in the early 1950s.

It was 1953 when federal regulators first required underride guards on the backs of tractor-trailers in effort to prevent underride accidents, which occur when a vehicle slips under the back of a truck and often crush or kill the people inside.

The guards, made up of two vertical steel bars that extend down from the truck and hold a horizontal bar, have been known to fail and thousands of people have been killed in underride accidents since.

The guard regulations were moderately adapted in 1996 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration changed the size and strength standards for the guards. But the fatalities have persisted.

In 2013 after her two daughters were killed in a truck underride accident, a North Carolina mom took on the issue head on. She meticulously studied data, contacted safety advocates and officials, and shared videos she made telling the world her family’s tragic story.

The woman accomplished more in one year than most safety advocates have been able to over decades when she persuaded the NHTSA to reexamine its regulations regarding underride guards this summer.

The woman and others claim that the guards could be made much safer by extending them wider on the sides of the truck frame; something they say can be done for just $100 per truck.

Of course, the battle for stronger regulations will still be fraught with opposition, but there is hope that something will finally be done to put an end to these tragic accidents once and for all.

Source: Bloomberg, “Mom Says $100 Truck Tweak Could Have Saved Her Daughters,” Jeff Plungis and David Voreacos, Dec. 15, 2014

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