More than 300 U.S. road users are killed each year by underride accidents. This is when a passenger vehicle slides under a semi-tractor trailer. Road safety groups throughout Connecticut and the rest of the country have been calling for more comprehensive underride guard regulations for some time. Lawmakers from both chambers of Congress and both political parties have recently answered those calls by introducing bills that would mandate the installation of these possibly life-saving safety features on the fronts, sides and rears of trucks. The proposed legislation also updates the current rear underride guard standards.
Safety groups are particularly concerned about underride crashes because the passenger vehicles involved are offered little protection by even the most sophisticated automobile safety systems. Organizations supporting the bipartisan proposals include the National Safety Council Road to Zero Coalition, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, Truck Safety Coalition, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and Consumer Reports.
However, trade groups lobbying on behalf of the logistics industry and independent truckers oppose the proposed regulations. In a March 7 media statement, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said the legislation would cost truckers billions of dollars in return for little, if any, road safety benefit. The press release also questioned the practicality of requiring front and side underride guards on trucks expected to navigate common urban challenges like high curbs and grade crossings.
Underride crashes often take place at intersections, and establishing blame often comes down to determining which driver had the right of way. Police departments generally investigate these accidents thoroughly, and their findings could be used by both prosecutors considering criminal proceedings and personal injury attorneys seeking compensation for the victims or their families. When confronted with this kind of evidence, trucking companies or their insurance providers may choose to settle truck accident lawsuits quickly.