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Congress takes action to mandate front and side underride guards

Accidents in Pennsylvania and around the country involving passenger vehicles that slide underneath tractor-trailers claim about 300 lives each year. Federal regulations require logistics companies to fit rear underride guards to their large trucks, but no such rule exists for side and front underride guards. Bipartisan bills that would mandate the installation of side and front underride guards were recently introduced in both the Senate and the House, and they are supported by a coalition of road safety groups that say their passage could save dozens or even hundreds of lives each year. The bills also bring the rules dealing with rear underride guards up to date.

Underride accidents are often catastrophic because even the latest and most sophisticated automobile safety technology provides drivers and their passengers with little protection in these situations. Underride crashes also often take place at high speeds. Safety organizations that have voiced support for the proposed regulations include Consumer Reports, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the National Safety Council Road to Zero Coalition, the Truck Safety Coalition, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

However, trade groups including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have come out against more comprehensive underride guard regulations. The Missouri-based lobbying organization says that requiring front and side underride guards would cost truck drivers and trucking companies billions of dollars. The OOIDA also questions the road safety benefits cited by supporters of the bills.

Underride accidents frequently occur when passenger vehicles strike the side of tractor-trailers at intersections. In these situations, one of the primary goals of motor vehicle accident investigators is to determine whether the truck or the car had the right of way. The evidence that police compile, such as photographs taken by traffic light cameras, video footage recorded by security systems and statements taken from eyewitnesses, might be used by experienced personal injury attorneys to establish liability in truck accident lawsuits.

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