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Powerful Senator joins calls for stronger semi-trailer underride guard laws

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer is launching a major effort to improve critical safety features on semi-trailers that could save thousands of lives. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y.) is launching a major effort to improve critical safety features on semi-trailers that could save hundreds of lives on U.S. highways.

The WUSA9 Special Assignment Unit has reported on the issue for weeks.

On Friday, Sen. Schumer called on the federal government to update and upgrade safety standards by requiring trucks be equipped with energy-absorbing rear underride guards.

Schumer is also calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require trucks be equipped with side underride guards. He also asks for new research into front underride guard standards.

An underride collision killed AnnaLeah and Mary Karth in Georgia, 2013. The underride guard failed to prevent the car from going under the tractor trailer. 

As WUSA9 previously reported, according to crash tests by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in Ruckersville, Va., effective rear underride guards greatly increase the chance of survival for people inside cars that hit tractor trailers.

But the problem is crash tests show many of the guards today don't stop fatal underride crashes, even at well below highway speeds.

"Every guard we've tested is certified to meet the requirement. But many of them have failed when we test them at 35 miles per hour,” said IIHS Senior Research Engineer Matthew Brumbelow.

IIHS research also found strong, side guards can reduce serious injury and death in 90% of underride crashes. But right now the federal government has no laws, rules or regulations requiring side guards on semi trailers. However, as far back as 1969, copies of the federal register show the DOT anticipated passing a law requiring side guards on semi trailers.

"So here we are, more than 40 years later, 2017, and we're still at the same place,” said Lois Durso. Her daughter, Roya Sadigh, died in a side underride accident in Indiana in 2004.

Roya Sadigh died in 2004 after an underride crash with a tractor trailer. Photo editor: Elizabeth Jia, WUSA

Durso is working with another mother, Marianne Karth, to lobby Congress and NHTSA for stricter trailer underride laws.

Two of Karth’s daughters, 17-year-old AnnaLeah and 13-year-old Mary, died in a rear underride accident in Georgia in 2013.

“And I wish it had been me, instead of them,” Karth said in tears. “They had their whole lives ahead of them.”

Sen. Schumer's calls for tighter regulations come weeks after four people died in a side underride accident outside Syracuse, NY. A milk truck jackknifed, according to State Police causing the collision. The car carrying the four victims, three of whom were ambulance workers returning from a scene, struck the disabled tractor-trailer and went under it, killing everyone inside.

Friday, Sen. Schumer said the accident shows the urgent need to improve truck safety in order to better protect drivers and passengers involved in truck underride crashes.

“Requiring trucks be equipped with underride guards is a proven technology that will save lives and make our roads safer,” said Schumer.

You can read the entire release here.