Side underride guards are rails placed along the underside of tractor-trailers to prevent cars from getting crushed beneath them during truck accidents. There have long been calls for trucking companies to install side underrides on all trucks for safety reasons, going back at least 50 years, when actress Jayne Mansfield died in an accident that could have been prevented. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer used the anniversary of Mansfield’s death to push for a federal mandate for side guards.
Side Underride Accidents in the United States
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 301 of the 1,542 car occupants killed in truck accidents in 2015 died when their vehicles crashed into the sides of trailers. Another 292 died rear-ending tractor-trailers. The institute says that about half of all fatal crashes involving trucks deal with underride. What makes these accidents so dangerous is that crash protection in the form of airbags and seat belts is ineffective, since the bottom of the truck shears off the entire top of the car.
Rear underride guards are already required by federal regulation. These guards are appropriately named Mansfield bars, after the actress. But side underride guards are not required. If mandated, they could prevent hundreds of deaths per year, but some are not convinced. Some say that side underride accidents are not common enough to justify the cost, while others say that the weight added by the rails would make trucks heavier and also could lead to balance problems when carrying heavy cargo.
What do you think?