The History of the Underride Guard
Jayne Mansfield was one of Hollywood’s original blonde bombshells. The actress, though she was fluent in five languages, and had a reported IQ of 163, was best known for being the “working man’s Monroe”-complete with publicized marriages and wardrobe malfunctions.
However, in 1967, her fame took a tragic turn, after she was killed in an accident involving a commercial truck. The car slid underneath the trailer portion of the truck, killing Mansfield, her boyfriend, and the driver of the vehicle instantly. Mansfield’s young children miraculously survived the crash with only minor injuries. Mariska Hargitay, star of Law & Order SVU, still bears scars from the truck accident to this day.
The fatal accident sparked regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to call for a safety feature to be added to big rigs as a means of preventing smaller cars from sliding beneath the vehicle. It took over 30 years before the underride guard, often referred to as the “Mansfield Bar,” was fully adopted in 1998. The underride guard is one of only a few safety features that 18-wheelers are required by law to have.
However, some studies suggest that the underride guards companies currently equip their trucks with are not strong enough…
Strengthening Underride Guards to Prevent Fatalities
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 260 people are killed each year by crashing into the back of tractor-trailers. The NHTSA is evaluating options for enhancing the strength of rear impact guards.
Underride guards greatly increase the chance of surviving a rear-impact crash. However, research has shown that the minimum strength requirement and dimensions of these guards are far from adequate.
During crash testing, a 2010 Malibu was used to evaluate the vehicle’s frontal crashworthiness. When the car was crashed into an unguarded back of a semi, the crash-test dummy in the driver seat measured serious injuries that would have been fatal to a real person. However, when the crash guards were up, the dummy injury measurements were generally low—indicating that the Malibu’s structure, in combination with its airbags, would protect the driver from catastrophic injury in the event of a rear-end tractor-trailer accident.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety then tested the Malibu crashes against three underride guard strengths; a Hyundai, vanguard, and Wabash. The Hyundai met the U.S. Standard for strength, but not the Canadian regulations. When the Malibu was crashed into the Hyundai trailer at 35mph, the guard broke; resulting in catastrophic underride crash.
Underride Trucking Accidents
Personal vehicles are constantly coming up with the latest and greatest features that keep occupants safe, but little can be done to protect drivers and passengers during an underride trucking accident. This safety feature, while the intentions may have initially been noble, is simply not good enough. We have the technology to improve underride guards. It’s about time truck industry regulations catch up.
If you or someone you love has been involved in a truck accident, it’s important to hire an attorney who specializes in commercial motor vehicle accidents. Attorneys Stephen Schultz and Josh Myers are leaders in truck accident litigation. Give us a call day or night at 314-444-4444.