Early in the day, as travelers made their way to Thanksgiving celebrations, WUSA9 reported that yet one more person has died due to a defective truck design.
One person is dead after a car ran off the road and then crashed into the back off a tractor trailer early Thursday morning in the Franconia area. 1 dead in Va. after car runs off road, crashes into tractor trailer
Retrofitting the millions of trucks on the road could mean people like this man would live to see another day.
A man has died after a car crash on the Capital Beltway early Thanksgiving morning, police say.
Christopher S. Padilla, 30, of Alexandria, was killed when his 2013 Honda Civil crashed into the back of a parked tractor-trailer in Franconia, Virginia, early Thursday, Virginia State Police said.
The driver of the tractor-trailer had mechanical trouble early Thursday and pulled onto the right shoulder of I-495 just south of Exit 173/Van Dorn Avenue, police said.
He inspected his vehicle and was about to drive away when he felt the impact of the crash.
The front of Padilla’s car was forced under the rear of the tractor-trailer. Man Killed in Thanksgiving Day Crash on Beltway in Virginia
However, if the decision is made to not retrofit, many people will die as a result.
Truck underride is what frequently happens when a passenger vehicle collides with a large truck. Because the truck was unfortunately defectively designed to be above the level of the crush zone of the smaller vehicle, the passenger vehicle goes under the truck and the crashworthy safety features of the car are not able to work. Or, to put it another way, the truck enters the occupant space of the passenger vehicle — too often resulting in horrific death and debilitating injuries.
Hundreds of people die this way every year — the victims of senseless, preventable death by underride. Yet, for decades, this problem has been left unchecked. Little has been done to preserve the occupant space and make truck crashes more survivable. Why is that?
Basically, the government has waited for the trucking industry to prove that it could do something to prevent these deaths. The trucking industry, for its part, has been waiting for the government to tell it whether or not, and how, to address this problem — before devoting R & D resources to it in order to come up with solutions. Meanwhile, the unsuspecting traveling public is left vulnerable and precious blood continues to be needlessly spilled on our roads.
Stalemate. Catch 22. Limbo. Standstill. Impasse.
The STOP Underrides! Bill will break this deadlock and get the ball rolling so that creative engineers can put effective underride protection on every truck — resulting in more truck crash survivors who can live to see another day.
This bill has been drafted by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. On December 12, 2017, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Rubio, and Congressman Steve Cohen will be introducing it in Congress. They are all seeking Republican co-sponsors for this long-overdue, life-saving legislation.
Sign & Share the STOP Underrides! Bill Petition here: Congress, Act Now To End Deadly Truck Underride!.
Find out more about underride at our Underride Guards Page.
Harvard Law Record, digital copy posted on November 14, 2017 in “Opinion”
Preventing Death by Underride
I met Ralph Nader in September 2016 at his Breaking Through Power Conference in DC. In June 2017, he asked me to write an Op-Ed on our efforts to bring about improved regulations for underride prevention.
In order to gain a basic understanding of the deadly but preventable truck underride problem, a compilation of helpful resources is provided below.
A complete list of posts on Understanding Underride can be found here:
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. See all of the videos here: WUSA9 Underride Series Sheds Light on Deadly Truck Underride Tragedies & Solutions
The STOP Underrides! Act of 2017 has been drafted by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She is working with Congressman Steve Cohen, who will be drafting a House Companion Measure. They are both seeking Republican co-leads for this long-overdue, life-saving legislation.
On October 12, 2017, staff from Congressional Offices gathered to hear presentations from five experts on the topic of truck underride to better understand the need for the STOP Underrides! bill. The presentations were followed by a question & answer period as legislative staff sought to understand the problem and solutions of deadly but preventable underride crashes.
The presentations can be found here: Underride Briefing on The Hill; Video Excerpts of Panel Discussion on October 12
Another series of posts on underride is titled Underride 101:
A panel of experts discuss underride at a Briefing on The Hill, October 12, 2017, to bring greater understanding of the problem and solutions of deadly but preventable truck underride. Jason Levine, Director of the Center for Auto Safety, discusses the flaws in the cost/benefit analysis of truck underride protection.
For more information on the STOP Underrides! Act of 2017, go to http://annaleahmary.com/ and/or https://stopunderrides.org/
Here are some further thoughts on cost benefit analysis related to underride protection:
- “Even if cost-benefit analysis is theoretically a neutral tool. . . it is biased against strong public protections.”Recently, NHTSA announced statistics for 2016 traffic fatalities:
- 37,461 people killed in crashes on U.S. roadways in 2016
- Up 5.6% from 2015
- Tucked in the back of the report, if you look for it, you will see that there were 4,317 fatalities in crashes involving large trucks — up 5.4% from 2015, the highest since 2007. . .
Public Comments on Underrride Rulemaking & Cost/Benefit Analysis: Public Comments Re: Cost/Benefit Analysis in NHTSA Proposed Underride Rulemaking on Rear Guards for Tractor-Trailers & for Single Unit Trucks and Current NHTSA #Underride Rulemaking (Cost/Benefit Analysis): Summary of Public Comments and http://annaleahmary.com/2016/10/dot-omb-are-you-using-cea-or-cba-rulemaking-road-to-zero-requires-vision-zero-rulemaking/
Jerry Karth’s Public Comments on Underride Rulemaking: Comments on the NPRM for Rear Underride Guards on Trailers and Reflections from a bereaved dad on the Underride Roundtable & what that means for rulemaking
- Stoughton improved underride guards–standard “at no cost or weight penalty.”
NHTSA Underride Statistics 1994-2014 Truck Underride Fatalities Chart from the FARS, 1994-2014
NHTSA Underride Statistics By TYPE (Front, Side, Rear): The side guard research has the potential to save 1,534 lives in the next ten years. (Per the NHTSA Truck Underride Statistics Chart, 1994-2014: Truck Underride Tragedies Need to End; Enough is enough! and http://annaleahmary.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Truck-Underride-Deaths-by-TYPE-1994-2014.pdf)
More recent statistics from IIHS (May 10, 2017): IIHS tests show benefits of side underride guards for semitrailers
- NTSB 2014 Recommendations on Underride Protection: National Transportation Safety Board Washington, DC 20594 Safety Recommendations, April 2, 2014
- March Historically a Momentous Month for Truck Underride Safety Advocacy; Beware the Ides of March! — including a March 19, 1969, Federal Highway Administration underride rulemaking document on the Federal Register which indicated that their intent was to extend underride protection to the sides of large vehicles! Eight years before my wedding day, when I was 13 years-old, DOT was intending to call for stronger underride protection. And yet, 44 years later, when my daughter Mary was 13 and AnnaLeah was 17, we still had not gotten it right! That’s just wrong!
- Thanks to Clarence Ditlow Review of 1981 Underride Rule Sheds Light on Current Rulemaking Concerns
- Cost/Benefit Analysis: Or, How to Put a Price Tag on a Person’s Life
- With Road to Zero, DOT commits $3 million; compare that to $9.6 million Value of a Statistical Life
- Let’s remember that we are not merely talking about statistics but about people who unexpectedly and preventably lose their lives and leave shattered families behind. Memorable Moments: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
The Future of Trucking: Who pays for the costs of safer roads?
I thought about all of this, on a recent trip “back home”, as I reflected on the plight of small trucking companies and independent owner-operator truck drivers. Are the costs of owning a company and the pressure to drive many miles creating a situation where they won’t be able to stay in business?
Frequently, I hear that changes of one kind or another in the trucking industry–in order to improve safety (i.e., reduce crashes, injuries and deaths)–will result in increased costs for the trucking companies. I hear that it will put them out of business.
Is this true? According to whom and based on what information? If it is true, then does something need to change in the trucking industry itself in order to allow for the beneficial work, which trucking provides, to continue but to also allow for truckers to make a decent living wage–without jeopardizing their health and the safety of travelers on the roads? . . . Read more here: The Future of Trucking; Who pays for the costs of safer roads?
Whose lives are you going to sacrifice? If decisive action is not taken to end these preventable deaths, then who should we hold responsible? Whose lives are we thereby choosing to sacrifice?
TTMA: Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association Reminds NHTSA Why Side Guards Are Not Cost Effective, May 18, 2016 post:
Yesterday morning, I checked my email and saw that there was a new Public Comment posted on the Federal Register regarding the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Underride Guards.
I quickly went to the site and saw that the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association had posted a comment (see their comments in the PDFs below). Apparently our Underride Roundtable two weeks ago at IIHS has spurred them to spell out the steps which have been taken over the years to squash side guards from being mandated and manufactured to prevent smaller passenger vehicles from riding under trucks upon collision with the side of the larger vehicle.
Their rationale: Cost/Benefit Analysis shows that adding side guard to trucks is “not cost-effective”. From this post: Truck Trailer Manufacturers Ass’n “Reminds” NHTSA: Side Guards Are “Not Cost-Effective” Says Who?
I am encouraged by the closing paragraph of the TTMA letter to NHTSA:
TTMA would support the implementation of side guards if they ever become justified and technologically feasible. We continue to support the NHTSA review of Petitioners’ requests and stand ready to partner in the development of justified and feasible designs if they possibly emerge. Jeff Sims, President
- How can we possibly justify allowing Death by Underride to continue when solutions exist to prevent it?, As I allow myself to remember the joy and laughter and love and creativity and grumpiness and irritability and silliness of my daughters, AnnaLeah and Mary, I also remember why I am working tirelessly to bring an end to Death by Underride — which snatched AnnaLeah from this earthly life on May 4, 2013, and Mary on May 8, 2013. I was in that horrific truck crash four years ago today. I survived but they did not because of Death by Underride. . .
- Mandates take burden off manufacturers. Crash tests in labs better than crash tests occurring in real world., Lou Lombardo has written a thought-provoking opinion piece, Creating a Demand for Crash Testing (CTTI, September 2011). It holds great value in confirming the need for comprehensive underride protection legislation to be introduced and passed in a timely manner. . .
- They fought the good fight, they finished the race. . .
- Every Day’s A Holiday With Mary; Joyful Memories of Mary
- Amazing Grace Goodbye, AnnaLeah & Mary, With Love From Grandpa
- Truck Industry Leaders: “Clarity is probably the biggest need we have so we can plan accordingly.”
- AnnaLeah Karth. May 15, 1995 – May 4, 2013. Death by Underride.
Some of the trailer manufacturers are offering the new stronger rear underride guard as standard to their customers on their new trailers. Some are not. Why is that? If the new guards have been proven to be safer, why still sell trailers with the weaker, ineffective rear guards which — if involved in a crash — could so easily lead to Death by Underride?
I wonder how many trailers have been sold with the newer guards which meet the IIHS ToughGuard award standards. I know that one transport company, J.B. Hunt, ordered 4,000 of the improved Wabash trailers in January 2016. But the stronger guard is not yet standard on Wabash trailers. So, what percentage of the total new purchases is that?
According to Trailer Body Builders, “THE 25 largest trailer manufacturers in North America built some 340,000 truck-trailers and container chassis in 2015, a 16.6 percent increase over the preceding year.” So J.B. Hunt’s order would have been 1.2% of the total truck-trailer and container chassis purchases for that year.
What about the other 336,000 trucks potentially purchased last year? Did they have safer rear underride guards? (And how long will they stay in the fleet?) I know that they did not have side guards. And that is not even mentioning the millions of existing trucks on the road which are Death by Underride waiting to happen — especially because many of them are not properly maintained.
If only the industry would voluntarily take the initiative to make it right and correct their defectively-designed products by making sure that every truck on the road had the best possible underride protection. New and existing.
I find it interesting that at least some in the industry are thinking comprehensively about some aspects of safety technology. . .
Recently, NHTSA announced statistics for 2016 traffic fatalities:
- 37,461 people killed in crashes on U.S. roadways in 2016
- Up 5.6% from 2015
- Tucked in the back of the report, if you look for it, you will see that there were 4,317 fatalities in crashes involving large trucks — up 5.4% from 2015, the highest since 2007.
- Of those, 722 (16.7%) were occupants of large trucks and 10.8% were nonoccupants.
- 72.4% of the truck crash fatalities were occupants of other vehicles, or 3,125.5 (Do I round that up to 3126? Now that really bothers me because this is about people who died in a crash with a truck last year and not merely statistics!)
If you look at NHTSA’s press release, here is their summary:
The 2016 national data shows that:
- Distraction-related deaths (3,450 fatalities) decreased by 2.2 percent;
- Drowsy-driving deaths (803 fatalities) decreased by 3.5 percent;
- Drunk-driving deaths (10,497 fatalities) increased by 1.7 percent;
- Speeding-related deaths (10,111 fatalities) increased by 4.0 percent;
- Unbelted deaths (10,428 fatalities) increased by 4.6 percent;
- Motorcyclist deaths (5,286 fatalities – the largest number of motorcyclist fatalities since 2008) increased by 5.1 percent;
- Pedestrian deaths (5,987 fatalities – the highest number since 1990) increased by 9.0 percent; and
- Bicyclist deaths (840 fatalities – the highest number since 1991) increased by 1.3 percent.
Do you see the 4,317 truck crash fatalities mentioned there? I don’t! Yet they accounted for 11.5% of the total traffic fatalities.
Is that indicative of what I continue to observe year after year — that truck crash fatalities are considered merely a transportation issue and left to the trucking industry to solve? And so potential lives saved always lose out in any cost/benefit analysis because “CBA is weighted in favor of the regulated industry and against health, safety and environmental protections”.
And we all know who ends up paying the price for this unresolved public health & safety crisis.
Heading to IIHS in Ruckersville, Virginia, for the Second Underride Roundatable We will be working together to save lives. For sure!
A senator’s Office recently asked me to provide them with a one-page history of reports and recommendations made on the truck underride problem in the U.S. Here it is (with clickable links):
Truck Underride Reports & Recommendations in the U.S.