Press Release

As Millions Of Americans Gear Up For Holiday Road Travel To Visit Family And Friends, Senator Gillibrand, Representative Cohen Announce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation To Help Keep Drivers Safe From Fatal Tractor-Trailer Truck Accidents

Dec 12, 2017


Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) today stood alongside families of truck underride crash victims and truck safety advocates to announce bipartisan legislation, the Stop Underrides Act of 2017, to prevent deadly truck underride crashes. Gillibrand is introducing this bipartisan legislation in the Senate with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

An ‘underride crash’ is when a car slides under the body of a large truck, such as a semi-trailer, during an accident. When these accidents happen, a car’s safety features are not able to protect passengers because most of the car slides under the trailer, and the truck crashes straight through the windows and into the passengers. The passengers in the car often suffer severe head and neck injuries, including decapitation, on impact with the truck. These accidents are often fatal, even at low speeds.

Studies and pilot programs show that a simple barrier attached to the lower area of a truck, called an ‘underride guard’, would help prevent a car from sliding underneath a truck in an accident. Under current federal law, underride guards are not required to be on the sides or front of trucks. Underride guards are already required for the back of a truck, but the standards are outdated.

“With so many unpredictable accidents on the road, underride guards are an easy solution for protecting people and preventing them from dying when a car collides with a truck,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This bipartisan legislation would save lives, and we should pass it as quickly as possible to keep Americans safe while they’re driving, whether they’re heading to see family and friends for the holidays or driving to work on their morning commute. I urge all of my colleagues to join me and Senator Rubio on this bipartisan bill.”

“Florida is one of the states with the highest number of reported fatalities due to underride collisions. With hundreds of Americans losing their lives due to these crashes every year, the Stop Underrides Act seeks to prevent these kind of deaths, make our roads safer, and spare more families the grief of losing a loved one by implementing underride guards on trucks across the nation,” said Senator Rubio. “I ask my colleagues in Congress to join me in advancing efforts to save hundreds of lives across the country.”

“I am proud to sponsor this bipartisan, bicameral legislation to finally address the issue of truck underride fatalities. By implementing the use of strong rear, side, and front underride guards, this legislation will make full use of the decades of car safety technologies already required in passenger vehicles and prevent needless deaths,” said Representative Cohen. “My heart goes out to all the families who have been affected by these tragic collisions, including Marianne Karth, Lois Durso, Jennifer Tierney and especially Randy and Laurie Higginbotham, whose 33-year old son, Michael, was killed in a truck underride crash in my area of Memphis – your advocacy and sacrifice, along with the support of the Truck Safety Coalition and Advocates for Highway Safety have brought us all to this point. This legislation will save lives, it’s the right thing to do, and that’s bottom line.”

“Over 300 people are killed each year from truck underride collisions, and these collisions are often underreported, it is time to act. No mother or father should see their child’s life cut short by an accident that could have been prevented with commonsense safety improvements. Fatalities from motor vehicle accidents in California increased 13% from 2015 to 2016, and this bill is an important step towards making our roads safer,” said Representative DeSaulnier. “I am proud to join Senator Gillibrand, Senator Rubio, and Congressman Cohen to introduce this legislation, and I am grateful for the perseverance of Marianne Karth and Lois Durso, who each lost children in truck underride collisions, for their work to make this bill possible.”

“I am the survivor of a terrible truck crash. I’m the mom of two daughters, AnnaLeah & Mary, who did not survive. The difference? Their part of the car went under the truck; mine did not,” said Marianne Karth. “When I learned that hundreds of people die each year from underride and that something could have been done to prevent their deaths, I became a mom on a mission to make truck crashes more survivable.”

“It is unacceptable to allow truck underride crashes to continue snuffing out the lives of our loved ones… year after year… decade after decade when it is absolutely preventable,” said Lois Durso. “We must not turn a blind eye to the truck underride carnage. I am grateful for the leadership of Senator Gillibrand, Senator Rubio and Congressman Cohen – they have taken the necessary steps to save countless lives.” 

“Until the day my dad was killed, I had never spent much time considering what would happen if a vehicle passed under a tractor-trailer. Now it’s a daily struggle to stop my mind from imagining that horrific moment of impact and seeing the remains of the vehicle that held my Daddy,” said Katie Strader. “There are thousands of families across the U.S. who have had their lives forever-changed because of an underride crash. Saving lives is not a partisan issue. Joint introduction by Senators Gillibrand and Rubio is evidence of this.  Protecting our families on our roadways is not Republican or Democrat. It is an issue on which we all agree.”

“The Stop Underrides Act is a long-overdue solution to a long-standing safety problem. Every year hundreds of people are needlessly killed or severely injured in truck underride crashes,” said Jacqueline Gillan, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “The National Transportation Safety Board has issued multiple recommendations for improved rear underride guards and for side and front underride protection systems. It is now time for action.”

“Motor vehicle crashes continue to be a leading cause of death in the U.S., and too many involve large trucks,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, President and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Every single one of these deaths is preventable. We applaud Sen. Gillibrand and her colleagues for their leadership in this area, and look forward to supporting all efforts to make our roads safer.”

“The issue of truck underride crashes has persisted for too long. As an organization that works with families who lost loved ones and with survivors of truck underride crashes, we fully support the Stop Underrides Act,” said John Lannen, Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition. “We commend Senator Gillibrand, Senator Rubio, and Representative Cohen for sponsoring legislation that will strengthen rear underride guards, mandate side underride guards, and require proper maintenance of these life-saving guards. We are hopeful that other Members of Congress will join them in this bipartisan effort to reduce the unnecessary deaths and injuries that occur as a result of truck underride collisions.”

Gillibrand and Rubio’s legislation would require underride guards on the sides and front of a truck and update the outdated standards for underride guards on the back of trucks. It would also ensure that the annual inspection for all large trucks includes underride guards as part of the inspection and would require the Department of Transportation to review underride standards every five years to evaluate the need for changes in response to advancements in technology.

The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 is endorsed by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the National Safety Council. A copy of the bill can be found here.