Tag Archives: rear underride

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: 

Include front override protection in conformance with the following
(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
(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.


Design and Optimization of Front Underrun Protection Device


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.

Witnessed safety defect in action at underride crash tests; this is what snuffed out my daughters’ lives.

We have been following the progress of Aaron Kiefer’s development of an innovative side/rear underride guard, which he has designed on his own time when not working as a crash reconstructionist or spending time with his family. So we eagerly welcomed his invitation to help out in his MacGyver-style crash test this past Saturday. (By the way, I am a big fan of MacGyver–watched every episode on DVD with Mary & AnnaLeah.)

Aaron wanted to take this opportunity to test his design and find out what changes might be needed to make it a marketable and affordable option for trailer owners to install as a retrofit safety improvement. We joined a crew of his family, friends, and fellow crash reconstructionists at a junkyard in the Triangle area.

The morning was for set-up. Then we took a break for some brats and chips before devoting the afternoon to three crash tests. I had been unsure before arriving as to how a pick-up could tow a car and make it crash into a trailer. It became clear to me when I saw Aaron’s pulley contraption.

Crash Test Tow Set-Up

Test 1 was a side crash. The collision of the car into the side guard caused the innovative side guard to pop off its brace. But, as Aaron and Jerry said, the test was successful because the side guard stopped the car from going under the trailer beyond the windshield; it prevented Passenger Compartment Intrusion (PCI). People in the car could have walked away alive.

Test 2 was a second side guard crash with the same car. Again, the car did not go under past the windshield and there was no PCI. The guard would have protected the people in the car from death and/or severe injuries. This time the added aluminum brace at the rear sheared off. Aaron thinks that he will have to go back to the drawing board and make a stronger brace.

Test 3 was a rear crash test. This time the side guard got rolled up and set aside. The trailer was turned around and the test car set up to aim at the rear of the trailer. The original rear underride guard on the trailer had actually been damaged at some point in the past and only had four of its original eight bolts. (That was the condition the underride guard was in when Aaron purchased the trailer, which had sustained damage from collision with an overpass. The guard had clearly not been properly maintained.)

In this crash, the underride guard failed and the car rode under the trailer. There was PCI and, if there had been people in the car, they would not have escaped unharmed. The added brace on the outer edge did not hold up. In fact, it was still fastened on (come to think of it, as it took a lot of work to unfasten it from the trailer afterward), but the original underride guard popped entirely off and flew to the side — doing nothing to stop the car from going under the truck.

Aaron had actually aimed the car to hit the left outer edge of the trailer, which he had reinforced with some aluminum braces. (Note: The current federal standard, as well as the proposed improved rule, does not require this area of the trailer to be protected against underride.) Instead, the car hit the vertical bar of the guard; the entire original guard then popped off and the car went under the truck.

It’s back to the drawing board for Aaron to find a way to improve his design. It was definitely a great success in that it prevented deadly side underride. On top of that, the trailer was not damaged by the collision (except for a few little nicks). But the bracing needs to be made stronger.

From what I could see, the day’s events only served to strengthen Aaron’s resolve to put a stop to senseless deaths, which he sees all-too-often in his work. I for one am truly thankful for the wonderful work he is doing, along with the group of people who willingly set aside a Saturday to support his effort.

Photo Album of the Day’s Events

The day gave me a deeper appreciation for all who take the time to solve the problem of preventable traffic fatalities. This includes the Virginia Tech Senior Design Team and Wabash and Manac and many researchers for decades, such as George Rechnitzer and Raphael Grzebieta in Australia and Luís Otto Faber Schmutzler in Brazil, and countless other un-named individuals.

It was also personally very intense. As one participant commented, “That was violent!”

Indeed, it was very violent. All three crashes gave me a jolt. But after the third crash, which resulted in deadly underride, I found myself standing still in the aftermath. Others were busy finding tasks to measure the results and get the clean-up started–including getting the car unstuck from under the trailer. But all I could do was stand there and stare.

Not until the next day really did it all begin to sink in: how I had witnessed from observing from afar what I and my children had gone through ourselves (although with a different crash scenario). I had watched, as an onlooker, the instantaneous destruction of a vehicle and how it was that AnnaLeah’s life had been inconceivably snuffed out in the twinkling of an eye and how, in a matter of mere seconds, Mary’s body had been broken beyond repair by just such a tragically-unresolved traffic safety problem.

It seemed like my own body experienced whiplash as it tensed up and relived, through traumatic muscle memory, what I had gone through. Meanwhile my heart continues to break with the grief that knows no end even as I process this experience.

It is beyond my comprehension how we, in this country, can allow such things to occur year after year without moving heaven and earth to learn how to prevent these tragedies. I can only ask forgiveness, and apologize to the countless families who have lost loved ones through violent death by motor vehicle, for letting them down–for not addressing it as the priority it should be. As a society, we have dropped the ball.

This is why I continue to push for President Obama to set a Vision Zero National Goal and strategies to reach that goal–including Vision Zero Community Action Groups. This is why I am looking forward to the Underride Roundtable on May 5, 2016, and why we continue to ask for donations to AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety to support underride research and the effort to improve underride protection on trucks and trailers.

Jerry said several times, “It’s not every day you get to see a dream become a reality–kind of a humbling experience actually.” May there be many more such days.


Third Crash Test: Side Guard Crash Test #3: Successful Prevention of Truck Underride Once Again!

Interesting Public Comment on the Underride Rule Question: To Retrofit or Not To Retrofit Used Trailers?

The Public Comment Period closed on February 16, but not all of the submitted comments have been posted yet. The proposed rear underride rule can be seen here along with all of the posted comments: NPRM Upgrade Underide

On the question of whether used trailers should be retrofitted in order to make them safer (better able to protect against deadly underride crashes), here is an opinion from one person who recently submitted a public comment. . .

Decision not to require used trailers to be retrofitted (end of Section 7, page 32):

You state that your analysis indicates such a retrofitting requirement would be very costly without sufficient safety benefits. If more lives would be saved and more injuries would be prevented by requiring new trailers to meet the new standards, then logic dictates that more lives would be saved and more injuries would be prevented by requiring used trailers to be retrofitted.

“Indeed, the crash tests cited for new trailers of different manufacturers tested on a Chevy Malibu suggest substantial disparities. It can be expected that the disparities would be magnified if tests were conducted on some of the used equipment in the nation’s fleet. If it is not worth the cost to retrofit an old trailer (in which case it should be scrapped), that should be the decision of its owner rather than the decision of NHTSA.” See more of his comments hereComment from D. J. Young, III

Here is one innovative side/rear guard design which will be tested soon and could be a possibility for retrofit: Innovative combined side & rear guard promises better underride protection.

Underride guard design by Aaron Kiefer 011

Imagine a truck UNDERRIDE GUARD which provides REAR & SIDE protection.

Imagine an underride guard on a truck which combines protection on the rear of the truck with protection on the side. Sound good?

Underride guard design by Aaron Kiefer 011

We have an opportunity to raise money to crash test this innovative underride guard–designed by Aaron Kiefer, a forensic engineer/crash reconstructionist in North Carolina, who after seeing horrific crashes wanted to design better protection to prevent people from dying.

See Aaron’s Public Comment on single unit truck underride rulemaking:  http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NHTSA-2015-0070-0013 “. . . side impact regulations should be considered for straight trucks but more importantly for semitrailers.
Many lives can be saved through side impact protection that is capable of redirecting passenger vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists from moving beneath a straight truck or semitrailer.”

We need to raise $20,000 for a crash test to test Aaron’s design at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Vehicle Research Center.  So far, we have raised $4,500 to cover the costs of a 2010 Chevy Malibu and a tractor-trailer into which the car will crash.

Be a part of this important project and help to save lives. Donate now & spread the word:  https://www.fortrucksafety.com/

Printable Brochure: ALMFTS Underride Crash Tests Brochure



Our crash story–the short version:

Our crash story–the long  version:

I survived an underride crash, but only because our car went backwards under the truck.

I am able to be an advocate — a vocal spokesperson on behalf of truck underride victims — only because our car was hit by a truck which spun us and then hit us again and thereby pushed us backwards into the rear of another truck.

The underride guard on the back of the truck did not withstand the crash (which is, in fact, the norm because current federal standards are ineffective) and neither did my two daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13), who were in the back seat of the car which went underneath the truck. AnnaLeah died at the scene and Mary survived with horrific injuries–dying a few days later.

After finding out that it has already been proven that these underride guards are weak and ineffective, I have been thrust into the role of speaking up for improving the standards to provide stronger more effective underride protection to those who share the road with large trucks.

After we were joined, in the Spring of 2014, by over 11,000 people to petition Secretary Foxx to — among other things — improve the rule for underride guards, our petition was granted and a notice of rule making was issued for tractor-trailers:

We are waiting for this rule making to move forward to the next stage when we will be able to make Public Comments. This will be an important step and we will put out a call for support for this life-saving measure.

Recently, on June 12, 2015, the groundwork for a separate rule making on single unit trucks (currently not required to have underride guards, but responsible for countless crash fatalities) was sent to the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (Office of Management & Budget) for review:

Many advocates have worked hard before us to bring it to this point and together we need to continue forward until we have reached the goal of The Best Possible Protection.

Rebekah photo of crash