What you might not know about underride crashes
Compared with other types of car accidents, underride accidents have not garnered the same degree of attention. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), approximately one percent of traffic fatalities are due to underride accidents. However, the GAO also reports that underride crashes have gone underreported.
1953 Underride Regulation
In 1953 The Bureau of Motor Carriers (now the FMCSA) issued the first standard for underside guards that required trucks to have rear-end devices to prevent underride.
Underride crashes first became high profile in the media in 1967. Actress Jayne Mansfield along with two other occupants of the vehicle met tragic deaths in an underride collision.
Details of the car crash
On June 29, 1967, Jayne Mansfield was riding in the front seat with the driver Ron Harrison and her lawyer Samuel S. Brody. Harrison was a college student, earning some extra money by driving Mansfield and her children from Biloxi to New Orleans. He was speeding down Highway 90 in Louisiana, driving about 75 mph. The time was just after 2:30 a.m., and Mansfield had finished a gig at the Gus Stevens Supper Club in Biloxi.
A truck had stopped on the highway in the path of their oncoming car while the driver was spraying the swamps for mosquitoes. A cloud of insecticide had obscured the truck. The Buick rammed into the rear end of the truck. The impact was forceful, partially sheared off the roof and killing the three people in the front seat. Mansfield’s three children were sleeping on the back seat and along with her four chihuahuas. The children survived the incident, suffering from injuries that were relatively minor. Mansfield was 34 years old.
As a result of her death, Congress launched a campaign for road safety. Debates and proposals arose, but Congress failed to pass any legislation at that time.
Multiple studies throughout the years indicated that underside accidents were underreported and extremely dangerous. However, Congress still failed to pass legislation for regulatory action.
Final Rule Issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
In January of 2023 the final rule NHTSA issued that required improved strength standards for rear underride guards became official. Industry compliance may occur mid 2024.
(References: Daily Telegraph and The Truck Safety Coalition Underride Fact Sheet)
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