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Trucks must install underride guards or more lives will be lost

Before I went to bed on Christmas night, I read your editorial, “Give a wide berth to tractor-trailers, it might save your life” (Dec. 25). I came across it because, as a mom who lost her two youngest daughters — AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13) — in a truck underride crash on May 4, 2013, every night I peruse a Google alert notification of truck crashes in our country. I also read your earlier editorial on underride, “Truck trailers can (easily) be made safer.”

I’d like to offer my two cents worth to this important discussion. I learned the hard way that the basic problem of underride is a geometric mismatch; the bottom of a truck is higher than the bumper of passenger vehicles. So when there is a collision, the car easily slides under the truck and the first point of impact is the windshield, which cannot stop a truck.

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What occurs next is too horrible to even imagine ever happening to someone you love. The truck enters the car and there is NOTHING to protect the occupants. None of the car’s crashworthy features — crumple zone, airbags, seat belt tensioners — are triggered. The people inside the car are left vulnerable. This scenario is played out again and again on our country’s roads. It can happen to anyone, anywhere; it may be due to driver error or circumstances beyond their control.

Unfortunately, neither improving driver behavior nor implementing crash avoidance technology will entirely end underride. Furthermore, neither the Department of Transportation, nor the trucking industry have adequately addressed underride.

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Fortunately, a solution is at hand. Engineers have developed effective underride guards. No matter what caused the crash, effective underride protection — front, side and rear — could prevent deadly underride and passenger compartment intrusion (PCI). This decades-old preventable public health and traffic safety problem could, therefore, be solved if the federal government would tell the trucking industry: You must install equipment on all of your trucks to prevent underride. In fact, Congress can make this happen by passing the “STOP Underrides! Bill.”

Truck crashes would then become more survivable. Families would no longer face unimaginable grief due to this preventable problem.

But that hasn’t come about yet. What happened to Mary and AnnaLeah will be the reality for too many others.

Marianne Karth, Raleigh, North Carolina

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