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Senate bill would mandate side guards on tractor-trailers

Each year, more than 200 Americans die when their vehicle slides beneath the side of a tractor-trailer truck. These types of accidents, called "side underride" collisions, are especially deadly because they can shear off the top of the car, causing severe head trauma to the driver and passengers. To address the issue, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida have proposed a bipartisan bill that could prevent such accidents.

Introduced in December, the Stop Underrides Act of 2017 would mandate the installation of guards on the sides of all tractor-trailers. These guards would stop passenger vehicles from sliding underneath trailers during side collisions. According to traffic safety advocates, such legislation is necessary because the trucking industry refuses to install side guards voluntarily.

Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has also failed to act. Even though the federal agency required rear guards on trailers in 1998, it has been slow to mandate the use of side guards. However, an NHTSA spokesperson told the media that the agency commissioned a study on underride side guards in 2016 and will soon release the findings to the public. In the meantime, the Stop Underrides Act has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation for consideration.

Big rig accidents are caused by a variety of factors, which can include a distracted, intoxicated or drowsy truck driver or improper truck maintenance. Occupants of other vehicles who have been injured in one might want to meet with an attorney to discuss their cases and then learn what remedies might be available.

Source: NBC News, "Senators say bill would save motorists from being killed in truck crashes", Rich McHugh, Dec. 12, 2017

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