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Federal proposal to toughen semi-truck underride protections

At our law firm, we fight for recovery of damages for the injured victims of dangerous collisions with large commercial trucks across Maryland. We also represent the surviving loved ones of victims who have died in these incidents. 

Underride accidents 

One of the worst kinds of truck accident is the underride accident — when upon impact with an 18-wheeler a car slides under the truck. This usually causes severe, gruesome head and neck injuries, often leading to death. 

The most well known underride accident happened in 1967, when actor Jayne Mansfield was killed in a Louisiana underride crash at only 34 years old. Out of that tragedy grew advocacy for underride protections, according to NBC News. Eventually, in 1998, rear underride guards — dubbed Mansfield bars — were required on tractor-trailers. These are the horizontal steel bars suspended from the rear of the trailer to block a car from underride. 

While rear underride accidents are the most well know, NBC News cites federal data that each year, over 200 victims die in side underride accidents. Surviving loved ones of people who have died in these crashes have lobbied hard to expand the federal underride bar requirement to the sides and front of semis. 

Proposed federal legislation 

Last month, bipartisan legislation was introduced concurrently in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that would expand required equipment to include front and side underride bars, if passed. The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 would also strengthen the rear underride bar requirements, require periodic inspection of the underride bars in each truck (and inspection after an accident and before each trip), require the federal government to request proposals to design a superior guard and update standards if appropriate, review advances in related technology every five years and strengthen guard standards accordingly, and more. 

While the sponsors of the legislation are confident it would increase safety, NBC News says that there is some dissention in the industry because of cost and questions about the impact of the added weight from additional bars. The Senate bill has been referred to its Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for review. 

As advocates for the victims of truck accidents, we will watch the progression of this legislation with interest. 

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