Bill requiring underride guards on big rigs stalls in Senate

A collision with a big rig on a California highway often turns deadly if a passenger vehicle lodges beneath the trailer, especially from the rear. Known as underride crashes, they can decapitate vehicle passengers at low speeds or inflict serious head and neck injuries. In 2011, 19 percent of fatal wrecks involving commercial trucks and passenger vehicles were underride accidents. Federal legislation that would require guards to prevent vehicles from sliding beneath trailers has failed to move past the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 has languished for a year despite bipartisan support. The committee has not scheduled a hearing about the legislation, but the new Congress might revive it in January. If passed into law, the act would mandate that trucking fleets install underride guards that meet modern standards. The U.S. Department of Transportation would evaluate underride protection technology every five years and update standards as necessary.

Surviving family members who have lost loved ones in underride crashes continue to pressure lawmakers to take action. A mother who lost two daughters expressed her frustration with foot dragging that was allowing more people to die. Another mother of a victim agreed that legislators had ignored the deadly problem for years.

Someone who has been injured in a truck accident of any type could experience disabling injuries and miss work for long periods of time during recovery. A person impeded by serious injuries might face an uphill battle trying to make an insurance claim against a trucking company. An attorney could manage the investigation of an accident and collect evidence about issues like improperly secured cargo, driver fatigue or negligent truck maintenance in order to seek appropriate compensation.

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