March 05, 2019

Senators Gillibrand And Rubio And Representatives Cohen And Desaulnier Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation To Put In Place Simple Safety Measures To Help Protect Drivers From Fatal Tractor-Trailer Truck Accidents

Underride Accidents, Which Happen When Cars Slide Under Tractor-Trailer Trucks, Are Often Fatal at Even Low Speeds and Could Be Prevented By Installing Effective Guards on Front, Side, and Rear of Trucks; Bipartisan Legislation Would Help Prevent Deadly Truck Underride Accidents, Which Have Claimed Thousands of Lives Across the Country

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN-9) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-11) today reintroduced bipartisan legislation, the Stop Underrides Act, to help prevent deadly truck underride crashes.

An underride crash occurs when a car slides under a large truck, such as a semi-trailer, during an accident. When these accidents happen, a car’s safety features are rendered useless 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. 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 Underride guards are already required for the back of a truck, but the standards are outdated. The bipartisan Stop Underrides Act would require underride guards on the sides and front of a truck and would update the outdated standards for underride guards on the back of trucks.

“Congress has the ability to make simple and commonsense changes that would save lives on the roads. Truck underride guards are one of the best and easiest solutions for protecting passengers and preventing them from being killed when a car collides with a truck,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I’m proud to introduce the Stop Underrides Act to protect passengers and help keep our roads safer, and I urge all of my colleagues to join us in supporting this bipartisan bill.”

“Hundreds of individuals across the nation are lost to underride collisions every year, with Florida unfortunately ranking among the top states for reported fatalities. This Congress, I am proud to join my Senate colleagues in reintroducing the Stop Underrides Act,” said Senator Rubio. “As a parent with kids of driving age, I look forward to working in a bipartisan fashion to advance efforts to keep our roads safer.”

“The Stop Underrides Act lays out a path to bring an end to these terrible and all too often fatal accidents, including the death of Michael Higginbotham, who was killed in an underride crash in Memphis and whose parents, Randy and Laurie Higginbotham, have been urging Congress to take action on this long overdue issue. This is common sense legislation that will save lives. It’s the right kind of legislation that should be advocated in Congress more often,” said Congressman Cohen

“Each year, truck underride collisions—among the deadliest type of accidents on the road—claim the lives of at least 300 people. No parent, friend, or loved one should have to suffer such a loss when there are commonsense safety improvements that can be made,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “I am particularly thankful to Marianne Karth and Lois Durso, who each lost children in truck underride collisions, for their tireless work to make sure no other family suffers this same kind of loss.”

“As members of the law enforcement community who proactively inspect commercial motor vehicles for safe mechanical fitness during roadside safety inspections, CVSA member jurisdictions know the importance of taking steps to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on our nation’s roadways,” said Collin Mooney, Executive Director, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. “If passed, the Stop Underrides Act will help mitigate the severity of underride crashes and make our roadways safer.”

“Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety thanks Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) along with Representatives Cohen and DeSaulnier for championing legislation that will curb preventable truck crash deaths and injuries. The Stop Underrides Act will protect against horrific instances of passenger cars running under a truck or trailer. Comprehensive underride protection is long overdue and will ensure families sharing the roads and highways with large trucks will be safer. We urge Congress to take immediate action on this bill to save the hundreds of lives that are needlessly lost each year in these crashes,” said Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

“Congress should pass the Stop Underrides Act right away. After more than 60 years of study by the federal government, it is well past time for our nation to protect families from losing loved ones in truck underride crashes. Stronger underride guards on trucks will make these crashes far less severe. The technology is there—what’s been missing is the will to put it to work. Passing this bill can change that,” said David Friedman, Vice President of Advocacy, Consumer Reports.

“The Truck Safety Coalition thanks Senators Gillibrand, Rubio and Representative Cohen for reintroducing the Stop Underrides Act. For our volunteers who have survived truck underride collisions and for those who lost loved ones in these tragic crashes, the reintroduction of this bill marks progress in addressing a preventable safety issue that has been well-known for more than 50 years and has resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths and serious injuries. We look forward to working with the Senators and Representatives and our volunteers to educate the public as well as other lawmakers about the dangers of this vehicle design flaw as well as the evidenced based solutions called for in this legislation that will help prevent truck underride crashes from needlessly killing and injuring more people,” said Harry Adler, Executive Director, Truck Safety Coalition.

“With over 100 people dying on our roads every day, we need to double down on what works and embrace effective countermeasures,” said Nick Smith, Interim President and CEO, National Safety Council and Chair, Road to Zero Coalition. “Underride guards are one of those proven solutions, and the National Safety Council supports this bill.”

“We are thankful for the legislators who have already stepped up to the plate to cosponsor this bill that will end a decades-old public health and traffic safety problem. Thousands of lives have been lost as a result of truck underride. Countless more will die unless the motoring public is protected from this kind of crash. It is the duty of the government to protect its citizens. We are hosting an Underride Crash Test in D.C. on March 26th, that we hope will convince all members of Congress to act decisively in order to protect their constituents from deadly underride. If Congress is unwilling to protect their constituents from death by underride, who will?” said Marianne Karth and Lois Durso, Stop Underrides Advocates.

In addition to requiring underride guards on the sides and front of a truck and updating the outdated standards for underride guards on the back of trucks, this legislation 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 is endorsed by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Consumer Reports, Truck Safety Coalition, National Safety Council, and Road to Zero Coalition.