Federal lawmakers address the dangers of underride collisions

As work continues on the western section of the Fayetteville Outer Loop or Interstate Highway 295, North Carolina motorists are eager to see the results, which will not arrive until 2026. Meanwhile, the $1 billion project promises to provide unmatched interstate connectivity in the region.

All of that connectivity means lots and lots of highway traffic and with much of the traffic attributed to large trucks. Being involved in an accident with a big-rig truck often leads to fatalities and catastrophic injuries. One of the worst types of accidents with an 18-wheeler is an underride accident in which a smaller vehicle slides underneath a big-rig truck.

Only addresses newly built large trucks

A passing motorist likely will never forget the aftermath of an underride accident as the top of car may get sheered off, leaving drivers and passengers either with fatal or severe head and spinal injuries.

Through the years, safety advocates and members of the public have pushed federal lawmakers to address this issue by requiring metal safety guards installed on the sides and front of new big-rig trucks. The trucking industry has not been on board with such proposals.

However, the U.S. Senate in March introduced its third and newest version of such a safety bill known as the Stop Underrides Act. Federal law already requires large trucks to have rear underride guards, but not any on the front and sides.

While the proposed law only addresses newly built trucks straight from the assembly line, it does not apply to the 16 million large trucks currently on the country’s roads.

Hundreds die each year

Will this legislation potentially save lives? Perhaps. Hundreds die each year in underride collisions in the country. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that an average of 219 people died annually in underride wrecks between 2008 and 2017. But the agency suspects those numbers are low due to discrepancies in how cities and states record data pertaining to underride collisions.

The proposed legislation could serve as a lifesaver for many drivers and their passengers throughout the country. The lives of many motorists on the Fayetteville Outer Loop also could be spared from the result of an underride collision.