Stop Underrides Act Introduced to Congress for the Third Time

While any crash that involves a large truck has the potential to be deadly, one of the most horrific types of truck accidents is underride accidents. An underride accident occurs when a passenger vehicle collides with a truck or its trailer and runs under the truck, sometimes sheering the roof off the vehicle and killing the occupants. If the vehicle occupants do survive the truck crash, they are usually left with catastrophic injuries.

According to a report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), more than 200 people are killed every year in underride truck accidents. It is believed that the number of deaths is actually higher because of the different methods law enforcement agencies across the country have of reporting underride truck accidents, quoting the GAO report, “ . . . police officers responding to a crash do not use a standard definition of an underride crash and states’ crash report forms vary, with some not including a field for collecting underride data.”

A study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) appears to corroborate that belief. According to that study, more than 850 people were killed in underride trucking accidents in 2019. The IIHS estimates that about 80 percent of the 7,000 people killed each year in truck accidents involving the side or rear of the truck involves some kind of underride where a car ends up under the truck or the trailer.

In their report, the GAO also wrote that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has not done enough to prevent these crashes and recommended that DOT:

  1. Update the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria to provide a standardized definition of underride crashes and to include underride as a recommended data field.
  2. Provide information to state and local police departments on how to identify and record underride crashes.
  3. Revise the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations to require that rear guards are inspected during commercial vehicle annual inspections.
  4. Conduct additional research on side underride guards to better understand the overall effectiveness and cost associated with these guards and, if warranted, develop standards for their implementation.

New Legislation Introduced

Safety advocates say that in addition to the recommendations of the GAO, new regulations need to be put in place that require underride guards. On March 4, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Marco Rubio (FL) introduced the Stop Underrides Act 2021. If the bill becomes law, guards would be required on the sides and front of all new tractor-trailers, as well as updated safety standards for underride guards on the rear of trucks.

This is the third time that Gillibrand and Rubio have introduced the bill. The first time was in 2017 and then again in 2019. Side underride guards have been mandatory on trucks in the European Union since 2003. Yet despite the multiple studies that show these guards save lives, they are still not mandatory in the United States. Critics of the bill insist the weight of the new guards could force trucking companies to reduce their payloads, which could then lead to even more trucks on the road.

A Virginia Personal Injury Law Firm That Fights for Truck Accident Victims

At Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, we know the devastation that tractor-trailer and other truck accidents can bring to a family. Not only is there the emotional loss and grief a family has to deal with, but the victim’s death often leaves their family struggling with financial losses, as well. If your loved one was killed in a truck accident, contact our office to meet with a Virginia truck accident attorney to discuss what legal recourse you may have. Truck accident cases can be complex, and it is not uncommon for there to be multiple at-fault parties who are liable for your loved one’s wrongful death.

We understand that no amount of money will ever make up for your loved one’s death, but our firm will work diligently to get you the financial justice your family deserves. Call our office today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.