Tag Archives: underride guard

Ralph Nader Conference Highlights Tort Law Benefits & Tort Reform’s Assault on Right to Day In Court

I just got back from a Ralph Nader Conference (Breaking Through Power) in DC on Tort Law (September 29). I was privileged to participate as a “Tort Victim” on a panel moderated by Harvey Rosenfield (Consumer Watchdog). Other panel members were Susan Vento, Todd Anderson, and Laura Gipe-Christian.


Tort Law or Torts, I learned, is the law of compensation for wrongful inflicted injuries and was in existence long  before it was ever practiced here in our country. And tort law has three purposes:

  1. Compensation
  2. Disclosure
  3. Deterrence (therefore making us safer)

I also found out about the assault on tort law or “tort reform” which has convinced the American public that a system of law had somehow broken and needed to be fixed. This battle for the mind has fostered an attitude of cynicism and skepticism in jurors with the subtle messages about (fill in the blank, answers at the bottom of the post):

  1. Frivolous ________________
  2. Runaway ________________ and
  3. Greedy (or ambulance-chasing) __________________

But actually, the result has been that those who have been wrongfully injured find themselves less compensated and all of us are less safe because it diminishes accountability.

In fact, once a person becomes a victim, tort reform makes them a victim all over again–this time of a system that was meant to help the victim but has been sabotaged to leave them even more vulnerable. And I can give you two examples of this:

  1. During the lunch break, I had the opportunity to speak with a member of the audience who was there because, as a nurse midwife, she was interested in what would be said about medical malpractice. She said that what was being presented made a lot of sense. But she then told me about what she sees as victims of the focus on medical malpractice: pregnant women who are too often forced into C-sections (or other medical procedures not of their choosing) due to fear on the part of doctors of being sued. Yet, this is a case, perhaps, of the kind of PR which was mentioned; we have been led to believe that frivolous lawsuits in this area have skyrocketed and resulted in things getting out of control. Is this so?
  2. The second example is out of my own experience. One of the presenters mentioned that too often victims cannot find trial lawyers who are willing to take their case — on a contingency basis — due to the risk of not being able to recover their costs and the concern about whether the case will be successful or be limited by caps on compensation. We have tried multiple times to get someone to take our case without success. By this time, statutes of limitations pose an additional barrier. The end result is just like I was told this week: compensation to victims is barred; disclosure is prevented; and deterrence of future actions is limited. In our case, tort reform, thereby, could have contributed to a situation which allows ongoing opposition and resistance by the industry and regulators to doing whatever it would take to end Preventable Death by Truck Underride. On May 4, 2013, I hit Double Jeopardy! A victim twice over. What will it take to break through this travesty?

Folks, this is a problem. Could it be that tort reform is just one more of the culprits that bear the responsibility for the circumstances that led to my daughters’ deaths in a truck underride crash? If the many layers of leadership in the trucking industry, government regulation, and law enforcement had been held more accountable and liable in the past, might there have been a greater likelihood that AnnaLeah and Mary would still be alive today?

I’ll probably never know for sure. But I can venture a calculated guess. And I can do whatever is within my power to make sure that things get better for someone else.

Here’s to the realization of my dream of a nationwide network of mobilized traffic safety community advocacy groups to educate and empower citizens to take back their right to a day in court as one more strategy to help us realize the vision of moving toward zero preventable deaths and serious injuries from vehicle violence.


(And just in case you need the answers to the quiz: lawsuits, verdicts, and lawyers.)



CBA Victim Cost Benefit Analysis Victim

2 crash deathsCar Safety Wars

If only

Instead of like this:

IMG_4465Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 033 Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 032

Truck Underride Timeline by IIHS at the Underride Roundtable, May 5, 2016

As always, I am after the truth of the matter and I hope that you are, as well.


VBS craft by Mary in Michigan, Summer of 2007

Global regulations underpin vehicle safety advances

While vehicle manufacturer and supplier networks globally will design, develop and implement greater levels of safety content than ever before, governmental and other interested stakeholder groups will continue to exert influence in bringing these technologies to marketing – in particular, where evidence shows that an advanced safety product can make a difference in reducing accidents, injuries and vehicle occupant and other road user fatalities.

Global regulations underpin vehicle safety advances  September 10, 2013

Can we help to bring about greater advancement in underride protection through global collaborative efforts? That’s what I would like to find out.

If only



Urgent Underride Discussion of Deceleration Forces/High Speeds. Don’t Dawdle.

While I was indeed encouraged by the incredible interaction and communication at the Underride Roundtable, I am well aware of just how much still needs to happen in order to make trucks safe to drive around.

View the entire event here: https://event.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1100569

Media Coverage of the first Truck Underride Roundtable held at IIHS on May 5, 2016

I summarized some of my initial reactions here: 4 out of 8 Major Trailer Manufacturers Have Passed All IIHS Tests; Where do we go from here?

I’d like to address the urgent need for progress to be made promptly to improve underride protection, specifically to design and crash test for higher speeds than 35 mph. I asked about it at least two times during the Roundtable. And, at one point, someone from the trucking industry raised the concern about deceleration forces causing injury at higher speeds.

This is an issue which pushes my button — especially because I have heard over and over that prevention of underride is possible at higher speeds — and I have written about it in the past:

The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association Reaction to IIHS Report: What is the Truth?

Setting the Record Straight: “Too Rigid” Underride Guards is a Myth

It was bothering me after the Underride Roundtable because of the simple fact that misunderstanding of this issue could be a major obstacle to NHTSA requiring and the industry voluntarily producing stronger underride guards.

So, I emailed some people about my concern over this issue. (No, not me!) This is what I wrote to them:

I would like cleared up, once and for all, the misconception — if it is one — that deceleration forces would cause unintended injuries if the guards were made too strong. It pushes my button when I hear someone authoritatively say it — when I’m not sure that they are basing it on anything other than hearsay. I appreciated what Aaron Kiefer said in response to the comment made at the Roundtable about this and I would like it addressed so that it does not remain as one of the obstacles to more effective protection.

I had asked several people in the public health/injury prevention fields to attend but mostly they thought that underride was not their area of expertise. I, on the other hand, am convinced that we need the public health/medical people providing input. 

As I have said many times, what people in the industry are saying does not make sense to me on many levels, including the fact that I survived a horrific truck crash and did so, as far as I am concerned, because I did not experience PCI/underride myself. I had many months of limping and leg cramps at night and painful neck and back tension probably due to whiplash and traumatic muscle memory. But that is all gone now and physically I am in great shape.


Here are some emails which I received in reply to my search for the truth of this matter:

From Raphael Grzebieta, Australia, who has worked to upgrade the Australian/New Zealand underride standards:

George and I heard that BS statement from car manufacturers (in particular, from a prominent engineer who was head of Australia’s Commodore vehicle design team) more than two decades ago when we were highlighting the appalling crashworthiness of the Australian family sedan vehicle the Holden, mainly  because of strength deficiencies and weaknesses (poor spot welding, etc.) of the structure surrounding the occupants. This GM-Holdens engineer’s argument was back then: make them too strong and you wind up killing people inside because of the large inertia forces. He claimed structural components have got to be weaker to crush and crumple to absorb energy and make the vehicle decelerate at a lower rate – it’s an old defence tactic used by manufacturers to obfuscate crashworthiness design flaws. The trouble with his position was that they made them so weak it killed people because of massive intrusion into the occupant space.

Well, the more ethically responsible companies such as Mercedes and Volvo along with the NCAPS around the world and IIHS has proven, with all of their excellent work and testing, that this is a completely false assumption. It also violates the crashworthiness principles set down by De Haven almost half a century ago.

De Haven’s principles are:

  1. The package should not open up and spill its content and should not collapse under expected conditions of force and thereby expose objects inside to damage,
  1. Packaging structures which shield the inner container must not be made of brittle or frail materials; they should resist force by yielding and absorbing energy applied to the outer container so as to cushion and distribute the impact forces and thereby protect the inner container,
  1. Articles contained in the package should be held and immobilised inside the outer structure, and
  2. Wadding, blocks or means for holding an object inside a shipping container must transmit the forces applied to the container to the strongest parts of the contained objects.

(see https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254791228_Rollover_Crash_safety_Characteristics_and_issues, where we discuss De Haven’s principles concerning Rollover Crashworthiness – another ‘wicked problem’ in crashworthiness not unlike the under-ride problem in terms of poor regulations and manufacturer’s resistance to change)

The principles of our Australian AS3845–Part 2 standard relating to underrun barriers are:

  1. Ensure there is a good crashworthiness interface (flat surface that is not far off the ground – see ‘Interface Compatibility’: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242129393_Crashworthy_systems-_a_paradigm_shift_in_road_safety_design and ‘Incompatible Vehicle Systems’ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237219017_Crashworthy_systems_-_a_paradigm_shift_in_road_design_part_II ) between the vehicle crashing into the back of the truck and the truck’s rear end (no spears or guillotines) that is capable of sustaining the crash forces generated (25 to 35 tons depending on speed).
  1. Use the car (the package) with crumple zones, restraints and seat belts (wadding, blocks and means for holding the object {human}) as the device that dissipates the kinetic energy of the vehicle crashing into the back of the truck. IIHS and NCAP tests have already ensured the occupant compartment (the cocoon) does not fail structurally so long as there are no line loading (guillotine effect) from the rear tray above the front sill level ( no lateral loads applied to the green house portion of the roof structure). Crumple zones outside the cocoon protecting the occupants, along with the restraints and airbags within the cocoon, provide the required deceleration ride down for the occupants to survive the crash. However, if the under ride barrier is not strong enough to withhold the crash loads, and the interface collapses, we get serious intrusion into the occupant cocoon survival space.  

So, in summary, what [the industry] is saying is simply plain wrong and tell him so from us, the world experts down under!

TTMA are still stuck back in the dark ages pre start-up of NCAP and IIHS crash testing facilities and rating days, spreading unfounded mythology like other manufacturers did in those olden days. It will cost them dearly if they try that argument on in a defect law suit.

They should simply suck it up and start redesigning the truck under run barriers to be crashworthy. One can design an energy absorbing underride barrier but that takes a lot of design effort. It also must restrict the stroke to a certain limit so that the rear tray does not intrude into the occupant cocoon survival space. Probably a lot of effort for little gain. 

Dynamic crash testing along the lines of what IIHS have done and what we are proposing is essential.


And here is a response to my question from Jared Bryson, advisor to the Virginia Tech engineering students who took on underride for their senior research project:


I found that comments at the end of the round table did not sit particularly well with me.  Allow me voice my thoughts, in two directions.

G loading:

1)      In a deceleration (single axis , eyes-out) a typical individual can sustain an incredible g load over short durations.  Military and Aviation have a wealth of information in this respect (Einband and Wikipedia images shown below). 

2)      Typical impacts are sub-one second.  As a more cited example, the IIHS Belair v. Malibu appears to be in the neighborhood of 150 ms duration. 

3)      In a linear model, stopping from 50mph in 3 ft (less than 1/10 second) should generate 28 G.  30 G is survivable in this timeframe.  Bear in mind reality is not linear, but a model below injury threshold is a good starting point.   

Survivable speeds:

1)    Extrapolating from Matt’s presentation: The old Vangaurd passed 100% @35 mph.  In the buck test, Wabash can withstand 33% more force and absorb more energy.  The Wabash should be able to withstand a 38 mph impact.  Not much of a design stretch for 40 mph.

2)   Robert Mazurowski’s presentation showed a mean of 44 mph in rear underride for trailers and SUTs (Slide 12).

3)    IIHS’s 50th anniversary showed the wonderful advance in light vehicle safety systems between 1959 and 2009, at 40 mph.   


Jared Bryson chart 2 chart from Jared Bryson

When I asked Jared to summarize his thoughts, this is what he shared with me:


Manac, Wabash, Vanguard, and Stoughton each offer a partial overlap capable design that is well received by industry. 

This industry shift in underride design combines improved structure with features facilitating safety systems in modern passenger vehicles. 

There is evidence these new designs are not only viable at higher speeds, but survivable

Please feel free to disseminate any of our conversations.

Last night, I was mulling over some other comments from the roundtable.

Stopping with the engine block:

1)      For decades, automobile design has intended for the engine block to eject below the passenger cabin in a severe frontal impact.  This is to prevent engine PCI.

2)      Limiting underride is imperative, as underride can limit this engine ejection vector.

3)      Not impacting the bumper structure bypasses the active safety systems found in modern vehicles (airbags, pre-tensioners, energy absorbing crumple zones).  This translates to more severe loading for occupants.

Stopping a car with the A-pillars:

1)      The short deceleration distance would create a fatal g load.

2)      Structure to sustain this type of loading would require a radical new approach to automotive design.

3)      Again, not impacting the bumper structure bypasses the active safety systems found in modern vehicles…


I raised my hand countless times to ask a question at the Roundtable. Push, push, push. . . challenge, question. Surely there are some who think that I am a thorn in their side.

But when it comes right down to it, most of those tasked with the responsibility of doing something about the underride problem (thankfully) do not have that inner voice reminding them that every ounce of patience with the status quo, every moment of pausing to be thankful for that bit of progress which has been made, is torture because it feels like a compromise is being made to stop forward momentum–thus giving up on the Best Possible Protection and sacrificing the life of yet one more underride victim as the Crash Death Clock continues to tick. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Yes, a lot of work needs to be done by many parties involved in this process. But if we were all to wait another year for another Roundtable (or for a new rule to be issued) before moving ahead with working diligently on this problem, that would be hundreds of more people sacrificed for no good reason. And we’ve had enough of that for too many years.

Just ask those who have already lost a loved one because of misconceptions or outright resistance. I’m sure they might tell you, “Please don’t dawdle. Preventing underride is an urgent matter!”


An impressive group headed for the Truck Underride Roundtable at IIHS May 5.

I heard from Andy Young today. He will be the Moderator for the Panel Discussion at the Underride Roundtable next week. He is eagerly anticipating that event after just returning from attending  “The Commercial Vehicle” show in Birmingham England. He said that he has lots to share from that experience. I’m looking forward to hearing all about it.

I am also happy to be able to say that at the Underride Roundtable 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
  • Wabash National
  • 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.

VA Tech guard installed
Virginia Tech Senior Design Team Underride Guard, 2016

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!

Hurrah! VA Tech Sr. Dream Team has attached their underride guard to a trailer!

The Virginia Tech Senior Design Team has installed their innovative underride guard with sine beam to a trailer and sent photos to me! Testing is yet to come.

Doesn’t it look awesome?!!!!!! And we’ll get to see it and meet the Team on May 5 at the Underride Roundtable at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center.

VA Tech Underride Sine Beam
VA Tech Underride Sine Beam
VA Tech guard installed
VA Tech guard installed
VA Tech Team with installed guard on rig
VA Tech Team with installed guard

L to R:  Kristen Adriano, Daniel Carrasco, Andrew Pitt, Wayne Carter (Team Facilitator), Brian Smith, Sean Gardner

Not pictured: Jared Bryson (their Sponsor) and Robin Ott (their Project Advisor).

What I was thinking of in June 2014, when I wrote this post: Underride Guards: Can we “sit down at the table together” and work this out?

and made this video:

Here is your chance to help the Virginia Tech Student Design Team build a life-saving underride guard!

The Virginia Tech Senior Underride Design Team is asking for help to pay for their unique underride guard design. How cool is that to see students dedicating their senior year to saving lives!!! 
Be a part of their project. See their GoFundMe page here: VT Senior Design Sine Beam Purchase
Virginia Tech Dream Team 2016 Photo
Virginia Tech Dream Team. Left to right: Wayne, Daniel, Andrew, Sean, and Kristen. Brian not pictured.

Virginia Tech Senior Underride Design Team Spring Midterm Report

The Virginia Tech Senior Student Design Team, which was inspired to take on the goal of designing a better truck underride guard, presented the results of their Spring Midterm Report last week.

See that report here: Spring Midterm_Final

Virginia Tech Dream Team 2016 Photo
Dream Team. Left to right: Wayne Carter, Daniel Carrasco, Andrew Pitt, Sean Gardner, Kristine Adriano. Brian Smith not pictured.

I don’t know if I got their names in the right order. I will get to meet them at the Roundtable on May 5!

Here are other documents related to their project:

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:

An Amazing Week in Truck Safety Progress

We had some really good news this week. Progress was made on 2 out of the 3 requests which we made to Secretary Foxx in our original AnnaLeah & Mary Stand Up For Truck Safety Petition (http://www.thepetitionsite.com/957/501/869/stand-up-for-truck-safety/):
  1. On December 7, 2015, NHTSA announced the next step in the Underride Guard rulemaking: http://annaleahmary.com/2015/12/unexpected-events-progress-in-underride-protection/ & http://annaleahmary.com/2015/12/a-moms-knee-jerk-reaction-to-nhtsas-proposed-rule-to-improve-rear-underride-protection/ & http://www.wsbtv.com/videos/news/new-rules-help-keep-you-safer-behind-big-rigs/vDf9Rt/
  2. On December 10, 2015, FMCSA announced that the Final Rule was being released for the Electronic Logging Devices to log trucker hours of service (to help combat driver fatigue): http://annaleahmary.com/2015/12/fmcsa-finally-releases-the-electronic-logging-devices-rule-to-track-trucker-hours/.  http://americansleepandbreathingacademy.com/the-dots-war-on-drowsy-driving/
We want to thank everyone, who signed the ALMSUFTS petition. You helped to make this impact on highway safety. Please continue to support our efforts as we wage battle and move toward a goal of Zero Crash Deaths and Zero Serious Crash Injuries through our Vision Zero Petitionhttp://www.thepetitionsite.com/417/742/234/save-lives-not-dollars-urge-dot-to-adopt-vision-zero-policy/ and Underride Research:  https://www.fortrucksafety.com/
Thank you in memory of Mary & AnnaLeah and countless others,
Jerry and Marianne Karth
Petition Photo Bags at DOT, best
AnnaLeah, Mary at Muskegon
Washington DC 129