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New bill may help prevent side underride crash fatalities

A side underride crash occurs when a car collides into the side of a truck and slides underneath it. Since a car's safety features are rendered useless in such crashes, the fatality rate for underrides is high. About 200 people are killed every year in these types of accidents. Illinois drivers should know, however, that members of Congress proposed a bill in December 2017, called the Stop Underrides Act of 2017.

The bipartisan legislation, which calls for the mandatory use of sideguards on all commercial trucks, will be sent to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for consideration. There are two ways that the bill's intentions could be carried out: either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could issue a new regulation or Congress could order the Department of Transportation to do so.

Previously, in 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board had recommended to the NHTSA that it make side protection systems mandatory, but nothing was done as the recommendation was non-binding. In 2016, the NHTSA began a research project on side protection for trucks. The results of the study are forthcoming.

Many trucking industries are not pleased by the newly proposed bill. The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association has opposed such requirements for years, saying that it would increase costs and even pose some technical challenges.

When drivers are injured or killed in such crashes, either they or their immediate families can consult with legal counsel about filing a claim. A lawyer can hire investigators to estimate the vehicle damage and amount the victim should receive for injuries. The third-party investigators can also search for proof of truck driver negligence. The lawyer could then negotiate for a settlement with the trucking companies.

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