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The Debate over Lack of Side Underride Rails in Truck Crashes

One night, in June 1967, actress Jayne Mansfield was traveling on a highway through Biloxi, Mississippi. In the vehicle with the actress were her boyfriend, three of her children, and the driver of the car. As they were driving, a dense fog from a mosquito spray spread across the highway making it impossible to see. Visibility was so bad that the car’s driver never saw a tractor-trailer in front of them and slammed into it, plowing completely under the truck. Ms. Mansfield, her boyfriend, and the car’s driver were killed instantly. Miraculously, the children survived. One of those children grew up to become a well-known actress herself, Mariska Hargitay.

The truck the vehicle hit did not have underride guards. After the tragic crash, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated that all tractor-trailers have rear guards. These guards are referred to Mansfield bars, after the actress.

Has the NHTSA Done Enough?

What the NHTSA has failed to do is require all trucks to have side guards, despite the fact that side underride crashes kill more than 200 people each year in this country, with thousands more seriously injured. All too often, a vehicle will come into contact with the side of a tractor-trailer, but because there is no protection along the side, the car can slide right under the truck, where it can become stuck or run over by the wheels of the vehicle. There are no safety features on cars that can protect them from these deadly crashes.

Safety advocates say mandatory side underride guards would save lives, using Europe as an example where these rails are required. Some advocates believe that the NHTSA has caved to pressure from the trucking industry, which has lobbied heavily to prevent mandatory side rails. Many say the industry is putting the cost of adding these rails over the cost of people’s lives.

The lobbying group disagrees, arguing that these guards do not necessarily provide the safety that advocates say they do and installing them could end up weakening parts of the trailer, creating another dangerous situation.

Let a Carolinas Accident Attorney Advocate for You

Truck accident injury cases can be more complex than other motor vehicle accident claims. Depending on the circumstances of the crash, there may be more than one at-fault party involved, including the truck driver, trucking company, cargo or freight company, or truck manufacturing company. If you have sustained injuries in a tractor-trailer crash, contact a dedicated North Carolina truck accident attorney to discuss what types of financial damages you may be entitled to for your pain and loss.
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