WUSA9 Underride Series Sheds Light on Deadly Truck Underride Tragedies & Solutions

Eric Flack, Investigative Reporter at WUSA9, recently began an extensive investigation into truck underride. The segments which have already aired are listed here. They plan to shed light on the problem until it is adequately addressed in this country.

Wednesday, August 9: “Moms try to save lives but get caught in red tape on Capitol Hill”

Thursday, August 10: “Big rigs, big risks: Congressional response”

A Bill to Mandate Comprehensive Underride Protection:  RAMCUP Draft 15 with Cover

Thanks @SenMarkey for pausing on the sidewalk to hear our stories.

On the way from a meeting in the House to a meeting in the Senate, we had a chance encounter with Senator Edward Markey (D-MA). Lois Durso shared how she had lost her daughter Roya (26) twelve years ago in a truck side underride crash. I shared how I had lost my youngest two daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13), in a rear underride crash four years ago. And Senator Markey shared how he was in a car crash when he was 5.

That crash from his childhood clearly made an impression on him. So when we told him that we were looking for support for an underride bill which we had drafted, he told us that he has worked to bring about safety and that we should contact his legislative staff.

We walked away laughing and smiling at yet one more chance encounter orchestrated by the hand of God in this exhausting but exciting quest to pass the Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017 (RAMCUP).

2015 Underride Deaths Data By Red & Blue States

After receiving raw data from the IIHS on truck underride deaths in 2015 by State, I followed a suggestion from Lou Lombardo (Care for Crash Victims) and asked my son, Isaac Karth, to put it into a chart by Red & Blue States.

See it here in chart form: Underrride Statistics 2015 (annaleahmary.com & stopunderrides.org) – by States

See it here in a bar graph:

See it here by House District:

Underrride Statistics 2015 (annaleahmary.com & stopunderrides.org) – by House District

See it here by Party: Underrride Statistics 2015 (annaleahmary.com & stopunderrides.org) – by House District Sorted by Party

Underride can happen to anyone at any time anywhere. What more do we need to know?

Let’s make truck crashes more survivable. Or, do we want people to die?

Comprehensive underride protection all around trucks — front, both sides, and rear — is possible. Installing it makes truck crashes more survivable.

Let’s make truck crashes more survivable. Or, do we want people to die?

PVEH_LRGTRK_UNDERRIDE_FATS_STATE_2015B

Comprehensive Underride Protection Bill  RAMCUP Draft 15 with Cover

 

“Powerful Senator joins calls for stronger semi-trailer underride guard laws”

WUSA9 reports that Senator Schumer has joined our call for stronger underride laws.

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) – Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y.) is launching a major effort to improve critical safety features on semi-trailers that could save hundreds of lives on U.S. highways.

The WUSA9 Special Assignment Unit has reported on the issue for weeks.

On Friday, Sen. Schumer called on the federal government to update and upgrade safety standards by requiring trucks be equipped with energy-absorbing rear underride guards.

Schumer is also calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require trucks be equipped with side underride guards. He also asks for new research into front underride guard standards. . . 

Watch their news report here: Powerful Senator joins calls for stronger semi-trailer underride guard laws

After learning of yet another terrible side underride tragedy earlier this month in New York, we reached out to NY legislators asking them to support this cause.

How sad it is that it takes tragedies like these to bring about change. How hopeful I am that we are moving quickly to seeing comprehensive underride protection become a reality. Let’s do this!

Just in: Truck Underride Statistics by State From NHTSA & IIHS

Yesterday I contacted NHTSA and IIHS and asked them if they would be able to look at their data on underride deaths and break them out by State. They both graciously made it a priority and created some new charts, graphs, and a map.

The pdf from NHTSA has data taken from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), by which NHTSA collects information on fatal crashes from each state. This extensive chart covers the time period of 1994 to 2015, showing underride deaths when the initial collision was at the front, side, and rear of trailers — first for the country, followed by a similar format for each state. Numbers are shown one year at a time and then totaled:

Passenger Vehicle Underride Fatalities by State, 1994-2015, by NHTSA

Please remember that it is well-known that underride deaths are under-counted in these charts. In fact, Lois Durso and I both have found that our daughters deaths are not accurately reported in these charts.

We also received a graph of underride deaths by State for 2015 from Matt Brumbelow at the IIHS. Specifically, these are “2015 Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in 2-vehicle crashes with tractor-trailers.”

Matt asked me to explain further, “that 2015 is still the latest year of data that NHTSA has released.  Also, that while not all these crashes will have involved underride, our estimates based on other studies is that underride occurs in 80-90% of tractor-trailer rear and side crashes with serious/fatal injuries.”

PV Fatalities in Truck Crashes 2015 per IIHS

U.S. Map PV Fatalities Truck Crashes in 2015 per IIHS

I hope that these visual and informative tools will aid us, as a nation, in addressing this tragic but preventable public health problem.

WUSA9 recently launched a three-part series on truck underride. More to come

WUSA9 recently launched a series on truck underride.
  1. Introduction by Eric Flack: A danger on the highway. . .
  2. Part 1 aired on July 13, Mothers fight for tougher tractor trailer laws after daughters die in underride crashes”
  3. Part 2 aired on July 14, “Cost of a Life,” or “How much is your life worth?”  and
  4. Part 3 aired on Tuesday, July 18, “Truck trailer rear guard rules have huge holes, safety experts say” 
  5. Special Response to Comments on Social Media, July 19, “Rear underride accidents explained”
  6. Friday, July 21: “Powerful Senator joins calls for stronger semi-trailer underride guard laws”

WUSA9 Truck Underride Series: Part 2, Special Assignment Unit: Cost of a Life

Part 2 of the truck underride series aired on Friday, July 14, on WUSA9:  Special Assignment Unit: Cost of a Life

Here is the accompanying article on their website:  How much is your life worth?

Video for Parts 1 & 2 can be found here: Mothers fight for tougher tractor trailer laws after daughters die in underride crash

WUSA9 Truck Underride Series, Part 1: 3 young girls lives cut short in truck underride crashes

Last night, Eric Flack, investigative reporter with WUSA9 in Washington, D.C., began the first part of a series of broadcasts on truck underride. Part 2 will air Friday night, July 14, at 11 p.m.

See last night’s broadcast here: 3 Young girls lives cut short in truck underride crashes

Facebook Livestream Introduction last night:  https://www.facebook.com/WUSA9/videos/10156426907094778/

After looking at some of the comments on the WUSA9 Facebook page, I realized that there were many truck drivers who were complaining about the fact that many car drivers aren’t paying attention or driving safely around trucks. While that may be true, it bothered me that they don’t seem to get that we are not talking about who caused the crash. We are talking about preventing a collision from turning into an underride tragedy.

The problem is that, possibly due to their perception of the issue, the truck drivers get upset because they fear the loss of their livelihood as a result of the cost of installing safety devices. Then they lobby Congress who worries about their campaign contributions and re-election. On top of that, the cost/benefit analysis is skewed and the protection does not get put on decade after decade.

There seems to be an inadequate grasp of the concept that we are not talking here about blame for the collision itself. We are talking about what Dr. Haddon called the “Second Collision”  — what the body collides with after the initial collision — in this case because the underride causes the truck to enter the passenger occupant space (known as Passenger Compartment Intrusion or PCI), leading to catastrophic injuries.

 Underride protective devices can be compared to airbags and seat belts — all of them being passive restraint devices/systems. Should we make the decision to not use airbags and seat belts because, really, people just need to pay more attention and drive better?

A Passive Restraint System is defined in one of the following ways:

  • A system that is constantly operating while a driver sits inside the automobile and the vehicle is in motion
  • A system that restrains the individuals within from moving if a collision occurs
  • A system which deploys automatically without any intentional action having to be undertaken by any of the individual(s) inside of the vehicle

Comprehensive Underride Protection is designed to prevent the Second Collision of the body with the truck. Without the CUP, the crush zone of the car and the other passive restraint devices (airbags and seat belts) don’t have a chance to go to work for us.

Yesterday, I posted these thoughts in response to industry concerns (costs) about underride legislation: Should the trucking industry be concerned about underride legislation?

Recent article in support of adding side guards: Underride crashes aren’t new. Hollywood starlet Jayne Mansfield famously died in such a crash a half-century ago (June 28, 1967 to be exact). And the technology to prevent them, including side underrides, is now well proven. The only real obstacle is whether the nation’s elected leaders in Washington are willing to require the safety upgrade despite trucking industry opposition. Truck trailers can (easily) be made safer, Baltimore Sun, July 14, 2017

The truth of the matter is that the trucking industry and the government have been well aware of these problems for decades and yet have not relentlessly pursued an effective solution. Can we hope that this will change? If not, shame on them.

How many people have to die before they do something?

The Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017:  RAMCUP Draft 15 with Cover

Will Sec. of Trans. act now to raise trucking minimum liability? After all, it’s only been 34 yrs.

Jerry and I submitted a petition to Secretary Chao on June 13, 2017, asking her to act with her administrative authority to immediately sign an increase to trucking minimum liability insurance. She has 180 days to respond. Will she?

After all, the current minimum liability level was only set 34 years ago.

Trucking Minimum Liability Petition Letter to Secretary Chao from Jerry and Marianne Karth

Demand for Due Diligence FMCSA Action on Trucking Minimum Liability

See in-depth article by Fair Warning on this issue: Feds Reject Insurance Hike for Big-Rigs, Pleasing Independent Truckers, Rankling Safety Advocates, By  on July 13, 2017

Previous Posts on Minimum Liability Insurance Issue