Tag Archives: underride crash

A real-life crash between a semi-trailer & 2 cars shows the life & death difference which underride makes.

A real life crash, where two cars collided with a semi-trailer, occurred in the Chicago area on October 16, 2017. One driver died; the other driver survived.

The 38-year-old driver of the Jaguar and the 27-year-old driver of the semi-tractor were each transported to area hospitals with non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the Envoy was pronounced deceased at the scene. 2 Dead, 1 Critically Injured in Aurora Crash Involving Semi

I don’t have proof yet, but it appears to me that the driver who survived may have done so because his car (the white Jaguar) hit the trailer tires, which activated the crush zone of the car and prevented underride ( or Passenger Compartment Intrusion = PCI). The driver of the other car was not so fortunate, the first point of impact was probably in his occupant space.

Could comprehensive truck underride protection have prevented 2 underride deaths in Michigan yesterday?

At this time of year (who am I kidding, all year long), I think about how if there had been comprehensive and effective underride protection on trucks, then  AnnaLeah and Mary might have still been here today. They could have gone with me to the zoo on Friday when I went there with my grandson.

How many deaths and catastrophic injuries could be prevented by comprehensive underride protection on all trucks? Might these two deaths in Michigan yesterday have been prevented?

Two people died and a third was critically hurt today in a multiple-vehicle crash involving a semi that shut down southbound U.S. 23 in Livingston County for hours.

One of the people killed, a 51-year-old man from Milford, was in a Ford Focus that went underneath the semi, according to a release from the Green Oak Charter Township Police Department. Also in that car was a 26-year-old woman that taken to University of Michigan Hospitals with life-threatening injuries. The other man killed was a 52-year-old from Davison who was in a Chevrolet Sonic rear-ended by the semi.

Read more here: http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/04/23/semi-crash-us-23-green-oak-livingston/100822330/

Stoughton Trailer owners can buy this new part to help prevent deadly rear underride.

I aim to do my part in advertising this Rear Underride Guard Retrofit Kit from Stoughton Trailers. Owners of a Stoughton Trailer can buy this new part and make their truck better able to prevent deadly rear underride by passenger vehicles.

Why would someone not do this — for $500-600?

By the way, I have also heard that Great Dane will make their new & improved rear underride guard available as a retrofit solution on their trailers.

Please help me get the word out.

Speed Limiters: The Controversy of Speed Differentials Between Trucks & Cars

The DOT recently published a proposed rule to require “speed limiters” on trucks — meaning there would be technology on trucks to limit how fast they could run. There is, of course, controversy about this proposed safety measure.

See the proposed rule (NPRM) at this link: U.S. DOT Proposes Speed Limiters For Large Commercial Vehicles

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) supports it. Some major trucking companies already use them.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) opposes it:  Among the various concerns the organization has are the possibility that truckers will speed more often in low-speed areas, such as construction zones, to make up time, and the potential for drivers to lose money because they couldn’t drive as many miles in a day. http://ht.ly/e2Hy303DTS0

According to Joel Stocksdale, Autoblog,

NHTSA’s proposal says vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,000 pounds or more must be limited to 60, 65 or 68 mph. This would apply to both semi-trucks and buses. NHTSA explains that the amount of force a truck will exert in a crash goes up far more drastically than with cars because of the vehicle’s great mass; hence, a lower speed limit with more seriously impact safety. US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx summed it up saying, “This is basic physics.” The organization also said that requiring limiters could also save over $1 billion in fuel each year.

I have corresponded with one independent truck owner-operator, Jeff Halling (and Linda, his wife–a truck driver team), about this safety issue (among others). This is what he says,

  • Personally Linda and I think this is a terrible idea. Not because we want to drive 80 miles an hour but because it totally eliminates our advantage of getting out of a situation if we have to speed up a little bit. Every credible study that has ever been conducted says traffic flows better when everyone is running the same speed. Several states have actually increased the truck speed to coincide with that of cars. Illinois and Arkansas being the most recent. Folks driving cars generally drive anywhere from 5 to 10 to 15 miles an hour above the posted limit. Trucks stuck at 65 will create major rear-end hazards. Not to mention the incredible traffic jams and road rages that will increase dramatically. The only way speed limiters will work is if all vehicles have them and we both know that’ll never happen. Very interested to see what the report says this week.
  • Can you imagine how this will affect the Move Over Law. I’m running down the interstate stuck at 65 cars are running 80 and 85 miles an hour. An emergency vehicle is on the shoulder in front of me what do I do. If I move over it’s guaranteed rear-end crash. If I slow down to 40 miles an hour which is what they recommend another possibility of rear-end crash. Just not a good idea.
  • I can say this though. If this law does pass we definitely need to get stronger rear end guards on trailers. Because rear-end crashes will go up ten fold.

Jeff and his wife (they are a trucking team) recently had a good conversation, about truck safety concerns, with an Idaho DOT vehicle inspector while they were being inspected. This is what he told them:

  • While we never touched on the subject of speed limiters he did say he did not like speed differentials. Although we got the impression he wanted to lower the limit for cars not raise it for trucks. Makes sense everybody drives too damn fast.

In fact, I found a September 2004 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) article on research related to this topic: The Safety Impacts of Differential Speed Limits on Rural Interstate Highways . They study the impact of Uniform Speed Limits (USL) and Differential Speed Limits (DSDL). Here are a couple of quotes from that article:

  • A 1974 study by Hall and Dickinson showed that speed differences contributed to crashes, primarily rear end and lane change collisions.
  • Table 1 shows that a higher proportion of car-into-truck and truck-into-car crashes occurred in USL States, except for rear end crashes where more car-into truck collisions happened in the DSL group.
  • A study by Garber and Gadiraju conducted in 1991 compared crash rates in the adjacent States of Virginia (DSL) and West Virginia (USL).(3) The increase in the posted speed limit for trucks to 105 km/h (65 mi/h) did not result in a significant increase in fatal, injury, and overall accident rates. There was, however, some evidence that the DSL may increase some types of crash rates while reducing others.

It will be some time before every car is equipped with crash avoidance technology, so cars rear-ending trucks will continue to be a problem and underride deaths will still be a problem until the underride regulation is drastically improved.

And, even with the crash avoidance technology, what will be the result of high speed differentials? Will the cars truly avoid colliding with the truck? Will the trucking industry be required to protect against underride at higher speed collisions than what is currently proposed: 35 mph?

Here is a previous post which I wrote on speed limiters last spring:

See why truckers oppose Speed Limiters & why others promote them #VisionZero strategy needed

How is it that I, as a self-made (Ha! like I had a choice) safety advocate, am waffling on this purported safety measure? Do these things ever get a truly comprehensive discussion around the table?

Talkin together

Yet one more traffic safety issue which could perhaps be more effectively negotiated with the help of a National Traffic Safety Ombudsman. . . just sayin’.

UPDATE, February 26, 2017:

Death by Motor Vehicle. Shattered World. Broken Hearts. Preventable. When will compromise end?

I was struggling yesterday with the sense that I am not adequately getting across the need for a Traffic Safety Ombudsman to facilitate a strategy to move our country more quickly toward zero crash deaths and serious injuries. And unless we embrace such a vision, too many lives will be lost when their deaths might have been prevented.

Why am I so convinced that we need a Traffic Safety Ombudsman? Because of the lives which I see shattered every day by preventable crash fatalities. And the 3.5 million traffic fatalities since the first one in 1898.

People like Mary and AnnaLeah. People like two of my facebook friends who lost loved ones (or have family members with life-altering injuries) due to truck crashes and were struggling yesterday with their frustration and anger and ongoing grief.

See the posts by these two families who shared their heartbreak, frustration, & anger about the devastation caused in their lives by preventable crashes:



How many broken hearts does that represent? How many more are yet to come?

And what do we get from those who could do something to stem the tide of Death by Motor Vehicle? Resistance. Opposition. And too often it leads to Compromise–settling for solutions that are ineffective and too often delayed. Basically, saving people from preventable crash deaths is not a national priority. And someday, it might impact you.

Take for example truck underride protection/prevention. The trucking industry has long resisted doing anything voluntarily above and beyond any shabby, inadequate regulations which might be imposed upon them. In fact, their opposition is quite probably the reason those regulations are so weak.

And they continue to resist an all-out, comprehensive technologically-possible solution to prevent DEATH BY UNDERRIDE. What is their biggest reason? Cost, of course. When the importance of crash testing a manufacturer’s underride guard with an actual crash test to prove its effectiveness is brought up, a concern is raised about whether small manufacturing companies can afford to do that kind of testing.

Well, I certainly know that crash testing is expensive and we have not been able to raise enough money through our non-profit, AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety, to support underride research crash testing. And in our efforts to find money for such an endeavor, I don’t see it as being made much of a priority. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate how we have seen some of the trailer manufacturers step up to the plate after receiving our letters asking for voluntary improvement. But is it really enough?

As far as I am concerned, if crash testing is what it takes to ensure that their product is safe enough to protect my family and they can’t afford it, well then, I’m sorry, but I would prefer that they shut down than endanger the people whom I love (and countless others as well)!

Now, I am not convinced that a solution couldn’t be worked out to help those smaller companies get their crash testing done. In fact, it was mentioned at our follow-up underride meeting on June 24 that larger companies could perhaps do some testing for smaller companies. Well, will they? Is there enough of a cooperative spirit to prove to me that Safety is not just a buzz word–that there is some actual concern about saving lives whatever it takes?

I’d like to put a challenge to the trucking industry which Senator Bobby Kennedy put to the automotive industry back in July 1965 — 50 years ago. I read about it in Michael Lemov’s informative book, Car Safety Wars. [By the way, I just have to say how cool it is to be able to Google the quote which I am looking for and be able to include it as a link to take you right to that quote in that very book. So, go look at it! And here is a link to a report on the hearing itself!]

Kennedy: What was the profit of General Motors last year?
Roche [President of GM]: I don’t think that has anything to do. . .
Kennedy: I would like to have that answer if I may.
Donner [Chairman of GM]: The one aspect we are talking about is safety.
Kennedy: What was the profit of General Motors last year?
Donner: I’ll have to ask one of my associates.
Kennedy: Could you please?
Roche: (Pause)–$1,700,000,000 ($1.7 billion).
Kennedy: What. . .?
Donner: About a billion and a half.
Kennedy: About a billion and a half?
Donner: Yes.
Kennedy: And you spent about one million dollars on this [safety research]?
Donner: In this particular facet we are talking about. . .
Kennedy: If you gave just one percent of your profits [to safety research] that is $170 million.

This rare challenge to the car manufacturers was reported by the press. General Motors promptly released a “corrected” statement saying that it had actually spent $193 million on “safety programs.” The figure was immediately challenged, since it appeared to include many activities that were unrelated to automobile safety. But, even if true, the figure was a small percentage of GM’s $1.7 billion annual net profit. Car Safety Wars, Michael Lemov, Google Books

So my question is to the trailer manufacturing industry specifically (and the trucking industry in general): What was your profit last year?

Second question: How much did you spend on safety research? And, more specifically, how much did you spend on underride research?

I’d really like to know the answers — not just for 2015 but for many years before as well. Because I’m not willing to compromise. There are too many shattered families, broken hearts, and lives ended far too soon.

End Crash FatalitiesA truck crash shattered our world

SIGN  & SHARE the TRAFFIC SAFETY OMBUDSMAN Petition:  http://www.thepetitionsite.com/384/321/600/end-preventable-crash-fatalities-appoint-a-national-traffic-safety-ombudsman/

“Victims of underride collision demand Vision Zero and an independent Traffic Safety Ombudsman”

Less than a week ago, I woke up thinking, “I need to start a petition on the White House website asking President Obama to appoint a Traffic Safety Ombudsman.” The idea of such a position/role had come to me a month earlier, but nobody was responding to my request to appoint one.

Now it seemed like I needed to take action. Since the petition site indicated that if we got 100,000 signatures in 30 days, then they would respond to it, it seemed like good timing to start July 1–with July 31 as the target date.

The first step was getting the ball rolling and it has been torturous watching the number of signatures slowly creep up. Once it reaches 150, then the petition will become searchable on their website. Meanwhile. . .

Maybe we’ll get a boost from an article published today on treehugger.com by managing editor, Lloyd Alter. I had commented on his article last weekend on the Tesla crash and Tweeted a message to him.

Today he published an article about our crash story, our advocacy efforts, and our Traffic Safety Ombudsman Petition and Vision Zero goals. Perhaps this will give us a good jumpstart on the way to our 100,000 goal–and ultimately our goal of SAVING LIVES.

Victims of underride collision demand Vision Zero and an independent Traffic Safety Ombudsman

End Crash FatalitiesPetition TSO


 August 3 UPDATE: The petition on the White House site is expired. Please sign our new Traffic Safety Ombudsman Petition at Care2;  http://www.thepetitionsite.com/384/321/600/end-preventable-crash-fatalities-appoint-a-national-traffic-safety-ombudsman/

A Mother’s Journey Through Grief Brings Hope For Preventing Underride Truck Crashes-Andy Young

Energy absorbing bumpers, crumple zones, and seatbelts could not save the lives of backseat passengers, 13 year-old Mary and 17 year-old AnnaLeah. They were traveling in a four-door sedan driven by their mother, Marianne Karth.

Highway traffic slowed to a stop as the Karth sedan was hit from behind by a semi-truck. The first impact spun their blue, four-door sedan 180 degrees. The same semi-truck’s momentum caused a second impact which shoved the Karth sedan backwards underneath yet another truck’s trailer. The rear bar on the second truck’s trailer was not strong enough to prevent the Karth vehicle from going underneath. The rigid structure of the trailer’s steel frame effortlessly shattered the back window, which failed to protect the back of the Karth girls’ heads and bodies. AnnaLeah died instantly. Four days later, Mary died as a result of her catastrophic injuries.

None of the car’s manufactured, safety engineering made a difference to save the lives of Marianne’s daughters. Why? Because the dynamics of the crash resulted in a truck underride.

Little did Marianne Karth know at that moment, on May 4, 2013, that she would become one of the nation’s leading truck safety advocates working toward meaningful prevention of underride truck crashes.

Read more here: Broken Glass And Shattered Lives – A Mother’s Journey Through Grief Brings Hope For Preventing Underride Truck Crashes  by Andrew Young

We were privileged to have Andy serve as the awesome panel moderator at the Underride Roundtable on May 5, 2016, at IIHS.

Andy Young and Marianne Karth


Truck Underride Roundtable is one week away! May it be sehr gut!

On June 25, 2014, after a tour of the research & design center of a truck trailer manufacturer in Georgia, I wrote down these perplexing thoughts about the too-long unresolved underride problem:

Now, it is understandable, amid the multitude of demands and the tyranny of the urgent, that—without a ready solution, in fact, one which would require time and money to develop—this problem has not been given much attention. But, if those who bear responsibility for making sure that this problem gets solved (one way or another) had lost two of their beloved children—or any other loved one—I can guarantee you that they would have moved heaven and earth to find a way to prevent underride.

What makes it even more distressing is that there are many individuals and organizations, who truly seem concerned about safety, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the trailer manufacturers. Yet, from what I can see, very little communication has taken place to move this problem forward from point A (guards that fail and result in death and/or horrific injuries) to Point B (coming up with a better design that will provide the best protection possible). Underride Guards: Can we “sit down at the table together” and work this out?

From where I stood, there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel for this life-ending/changing problem. I had lots of ideas about what needed to be done but no sense that any thing was going to get done about it any time in the near future.

So, in trying to process what we learned at the meeting, I kept thinking over and over: Could an independent work group of qualified individuals, such as an engineering school, take on the challenge of creating such a design—which could then be tested by IHHS, proposed to NHTSA to aid in defining improved rear impact guard specifications, and provided to all trailer manufacturers? Could we do some kind of crowd funding or grant proposal to obtain the necessary funds to support such an endeavor? Could we perhaps even approach the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA) and ask them to seek contributions from their members for such a project?

Is cost truly not a factor? Is safety really a priority and not a competitive matter? Is it possible to improve the communication necessary to prevent more unnecessary deaths? Can we “sit down at the table together” and work this out?

I am so happy to be able to say that at the Underride Roundtable, one week from now on May 5, 2016, over 65 representatives from the trucking industry, government, safety advocates, engineers, crash reconstructionists, attorneys, and media will be on hand at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Vehicle Research Center to”sit down at the table together” and discuss and demonstrate truck underride crashes.

This group will include representatives from:

  • Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association
  • American Trucking Associations
  • Seven Hills Engineering
  • Airflow Deflector
  • Accident Research Specialists
  • Sapa Extrusions
  • Truck Safety Coalition
  • AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
  • Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
  • Virginia Tech
  • East Carolina University
  • National Transportation Safety Board, Office of Highway Safety
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • J. Hunt Transport
  • Batzer Engineering
  • Injury and Crash Analysis
  • Vanguard Trailer
  • Smart Cap Technologies
  • UNC Highway Safety Research Center
  • Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
  • Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center
  • Interstate Distributor
  • NYC Citywide Adminstrative Services
  • Nurenberg Paris Law Firm
  • Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance
  • Sanders & Parks Law Firm
  • The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • North Carolina Department of Transportation
  • Cargo Transporters
  • Stoughton Trailers
  • Great Dane Trailers
  • North Carolina State Highway Patrol
  • City of Boston, Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics
  • Interstate Distributors
  • Media representatives
  • Underride victims and families
  • and joined by an unknown number of individuals globally as the event will be livestreaming at this webcast link.

It is unfortunate that, over the decades in which no adequate solution to this tragic problem has come about, there has been much miscommunication, misunderstanding, misinformation, and mistakes made. I, for one, am ready to encourage things to move forward with positive momentum–aiming for the best possible underride protection.

In my morning reading, I was reflecting on some verses in Mark 11, which reminded me that the outcome is not totally dependent on me or any of the others who will be gathering in Ruckersville, Virginia, next Thursday. Instead, we are to. . .

“Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going go happen; it shall be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you.” Mark 11:22-24

And one more key thing, no matter what has and has not been done during the decades following the discovery of the horror of underride, we all need to forgive, put the past behind us, and find ways to work together to overcome this challenge.

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions.” Mark 11:25

And though we may forgive, we will never forget those we have lost and the reason we are here. . .

Never forgotten

Vision Zero/Safe System: foreseen fatalities need to be addressed if a design countermeasure possible

No matter what causes a crash, when underride occurs, it is the victim who pays the price.

ResponsibilityPicture 667

The Standards Australia recently-released proposed rear underrun rule says this in Commentary G of its STANDARDS AUSTRALIA Rear Underride Proposed Rule:

“Around twelve fatalities occur each year as a result of truck underruns in Australia. The injuries are usually horrific (see references in paragraph G7.2.1. for Rechnitzer & Foong [1991], Rechnitzer & Grzebieta [1991], Grzebieta & Rechnitzer [2001], Lambert & Rechnitzer [2002], Brumbelow [2011], & IIHS [2014]).

“Given that Australia has adopted a ‘Vision Zero’ road safety philosophy and the ‘Safe System Approach’ road safety strategy, all such foreseen fatalities need to be addressed if a design countermeasure can be implemented.

“The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has also identified that the truck underrun fatalities and serious injuries are occurring as a result of inadequate truck underrun barriers and the lack of a crash performance test standard (IIHS 2014). They have rated a number of underrun barriers using a performance crash test protocol they recently developed.”

Clearly, they get it: if a fatality is predictable, and a solution exists which could prevent it, then it should be implemented!

See previous post on this topic:  Good news from Australia: A Stronger Rear Underride Guard Rule Has Been Proposed!

Truck Underride Fatalities Chart from the FARS, 1994-2014

The Department of Transportation collects statistics from crash reports given to them by each state on fatalities each year. I requested a chart of those crash deaths related to truck underride since they began collecting that information.

I just received that chart from NHTSA: Truck Underride Fatalities, 1994-2014

Unfortunately, it does not contain a breakdown of rear vs side vs front collisions. Also, there is a column for Passenger “Compartment Intrusion Unknown.” Our crash was listed as this category in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). However, there clearly was intrusion into the passenger compartment where AnnaLeah and Mary were sitting.

It makes me wonder how many PCI crashes are underreported. These statistics are taken from the police crash reports and it would be helpful if all states were provided with, and required to use, a uniform report form in order to make reporting and research more efficient and effective.

Previous post on that topic: Truck Underride Prevention Research Too Long Neglected; How Long Will This Highway Carnage Continue?

Underride killsIMG_4492Mary 10.41 am May 4 2013Responsibility74 gertie 2314gertie 2946gertie 2947IMG_4465