Just How Far Have We Come In The 50 Years Since Jayne Mansfield’s Death By Truck Underride?

June 29 marked the 50th anniversary of Jayne Mansfield’s death by underride. The world knew in 1967 — if it didn’t know it before — about the terrible geometric mismatch between a car and a truck which allowed a car to ride under a truck upon collision.

In those 50 years, how many technological problems have we solved? And yet why have we been unable to solve the problem of truck underride and stem the tide of preventable, horrific, and senseless underride tragedies?

Sure we have made some headway — six trailer manufacturers have upgraded their rear underride guards and there are promising side guard solutions with one of them recently tested by the IIHS. Some manufacturers even have retrofit kits available to replace weak rear guards on existing trailers.

Yet it is well known that more could be done, but hasn’t. And why is that? Why have we been so slow to solve this problem? There are many reasons which could be cited. But the facts are the facts. People are still dying (or suffering catastrophic injuries) at an alarming rate from underride and we are seemingly content to let it continue or address it at a snail’s pace.

Not me. I am not content to take it slow and easy — not when the result is that more people will die because we didn’t act sooner. When we could have.

Take front underride or override for example. Front underride protection is one of the components we are asking for in the Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017 (RAMCUP). People are dying due to lack of adequate front underride protection — just like they are on the sides and rear of trucks.

In Europe, they have requirements to protect against this. Not in the U.S. So what are we waiting for? Well, that’s a good question.

Do we wait until we can reinvent the wheel here and figure it out for ourselves with years of research? Or do we speed up the process by learning from others and encouraging collaboration among relevant stakeholders?

Do we include it in the congressional mandate to the Department of Transportation and ask them to figure it out sooner rather than later? Or do we ask them to solve the side guard problem now and then later on, down the road at some unspecified time in the future, we’ll address the need for front protection?

Well, Lois Durso and I took the bull by the horn and said: We’re sick & tired of waiting. People are dying from underride no matter what part of the truck they are unfortunate enough to collide with. We need to solve every kind of underride problem and we are going to include it all in one big comprehensive piece of legislation. Because it is needed. Because it is long-overdue.

Previous posts on Front Underride Protection:

Don’t re-invent the wheel; establish a formal Committee On Underride Protection (COUP) to oversee the development of recommendations for NHTSA underride regulations.

See the history of underride rulemaking as compiled by IIHS and displayed at the first Underride Roundtable on May 5, 2016, held at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center:

From the RAMCUP bill: 

(d) UNDERRIDE PROTECTION ON THE FRONT OF LARGE TRUCKS
Include front override protection in conformance with the following
specifications:
(1) An EU requirement was introduced in 2000 based on ECE Regulation
93 requiring mandatory rigid front underrun protection defining a rigid
front underrun protection system for trucks with a gross weight over 3.5
tonnes Directive 2000/40/EEC. Studies performed by EEVC WG 14 have
shown that passenger cars can ‘survive’ a frontal truck collision with a
relative speed of 75 km/h if the truck is equipped with an energy absorbing               underrun protection system. Furthermore, these systems could reduce
about 1,176 deaths and 23,660 seriously injured car occupants in Europe
per year. Research shows that the benefits of a mandatory specification for
energy absorbing front underrun protection would exceed the costs, even if
the safety effect of these measures was as low as 5%. European
Commission; Front Underrun Protection Systems [Note: 75 kmh = 46.6028
mph]
(2) Front guards must have 3 levels of resistance; soft front for pedestrians
and cyclists, middle area must be softer than the partner vehicle in crashes
and able to absorb energy such as through crush, and rear area must be
strong and stiff enough to resist underride and rotate high-speed vehicles
away from the truck. Extend the front guard from the truck 600 mm (2 feet) to
give room for a 500 mm (1.6 feet) radius curve to deflect crash partners
including VRU and cars. The extra 600 mm should give 102 km/h or (63 mph)
of protection which would exceed a general goal of 60 mph (100 km/h) — an
average speed for highway crashes in the real world.
(3) NHTSA shall immediately issue an RFP to identify the appropriate
requirements for a front underrun protection standard.

ECE No. 93 FRONT UNDERRUN PROTECTION

Design and Optimization of Front Underrun Protection Device

https://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/specialist/knowledge/vehicle/safety_design_needs/heavy_goods_vehicles_en

Don’t you think that enough is enough?! Let’s make it a priority to tackle the whole underride problem post haste! If we don’t (knowing what we now know), then who should we hold responsible for the thousands of people who will most surely die from preventable underride?

No compromise. Too many have already paid the price for 50 years of compromise.

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