With the presence of six interstate highways in Mississippi, road travelers are accustomed to seeing the numerous big-rig trucks that crisscross the state. What they also know about are the potential tragedies that arise when these colossal vehicles are involved in roadside collisions.
One such type of collision is an underride accident that occurs when a smaller vehicle slides underneath the rear or side of the several-ton truck. These accidents often lead to top of the car being sheered off and catastrophic or fatal injuries to the car’s driver and passengers. For decades, safety advocates have pressed federal lawmakers to do more to minimize such accidents. Recently, members of Capitol Hill decided now was the right time to revisit such legislation.
Hundreds die each year in such accidents
In early March, a trucking safety bill known as the Stop Underrides Act resurfaced for the third time. U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) teamed up and reintroduced the bill, which requires the installation of safety underride guards along the sides and front of newly manufactured tractor-trailers. The bill also sets new standards toward improving the truck’s rear guards currently required by law.
Safety advocates admitted to making concessions in getting the bill reintroduced. The main one: Only newly built tractor-trailers must have them installed. The trucking industry continues to describe the proposed legislation as ineffective and costly for trucking companies.
During the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, an average of 219 deaths occurred in underride collisions with large trucks, reported the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Those fatalities accounted for less than 1% of the U.S. road deaths during the same period. The GAO reports that such accidents are likely underreported due to the different data collection processes used by states and municipalities.
Large truck accidents remain a concern. Among all road accidents – not just underride collisions — involving trucks, a total of 4,951 fatalities occurred in 2018. Mississippi accounted for 108 of those deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
It is a good sign to see that lawmakers taking more steps to improve safety for all motorists and their passengers. Underride collisions can lead to tragic consequences.