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New legislation may prevent truck underride deaths

Because a tractor-trailer has such high ground clearance, it poses a particular risk to people in passenger vehicles in a Maryland traffic accident. Most vehicles absorb impact and protect passengers with crumple zones, seat belts and air bags. However, none of these can be an effective injury deterrent if the front of the vehicle doesn't come into contact with anything.

Forbes notes that in a collision with a truck, the first part of the vehicle that hits may be the windshield. At that point, there is nothing at all to keep the trailer from striking the passengers at a deadly speed. Fortunately, there are safety features that can prevent this catastrophe and make this type of fatality obsolete: underride guards. Designs for strong rear and side guards have already been crash tested and approved by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Manufacturers have made these rear and side underride guards available on new vehicles, as well as designing them to be added to trailers already in use. 

There is a federal law requiring all trailers to have rear underride guards, but lawmakers set the standards for these in 1998, and according to IIHS crash tests, these do not offer the protection they should. At least three U.S. Senators agree, and they have penned the Stop Underrides Act and submitted it for review to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The implicitly stated goal of this legislation is "to reduce the number of preventable deaths and injuries caused by underride crashes" by requiring the improved, effective underride guards.

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