Statement of Jackie Gillan, President
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
On the Introduction of the Stop Underrides Act
December 12, 2017
Good morning. My name is Jackie Gillan. I am the President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates). Advocates is a coalition of consumer, health, and safety groups and property-casualty insurance companies committed to advancing safer vehicles, safer drivers and safer roads. I am here this morning to lend Advocates’ strong and enthusiastic support to lifesaving legislation being introduced today — The Stop Underrides Act. Thank you Senator Gillibrand, Congressman Cohen and the other House and Senate co-sponsors for your leadership.
Since 1989, Advocates has been working to prevent needless deaths and injuries caused by truck crashes including truck underride crashes. Trucks are higher off the ground than cars and in a serious collision, a passenger vehicle can run underneath a truck or trailer. When this occurs, the truck acts like a guillotine and shears off or crushes the car’s passenger compartment causing violent death and devastating injuries.
Each year hundreds of people needlessly die in truck underride crashes. This legislation is a long-overdue solution to a long-standing safety problem. Over the years, the National Transportation Safety Board has issued multiple recommendations for upgraded rear underride guards and for side and front underride protection systems.
The public has waited long enough for government action. The Stop Underrides Act directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to update the current rear guard standard and to issue new requirements for side and front underride guards. Crash tests have demonstrated that when a car is stopped from going underneath a trailer, airbags and safety belt systems work as intended and properly restrain a car’s occupants.
This bill is dedicated to the many victims and survivors of truck underride crashes. Their families have been the voice for addressing and acting on this deadly safety problem.
In addition to extending my appreciation to the House and Senate sponsors of this bill, I also want to commend the numerous families of victims and survivors who have worked so long and so hard to advance an effective solution to truck underride deaths and injuries. Who could not be moved to act after hearing these tragic stories this morning?
I first became involved in the underride issue when I met two remarkable women, Jennifer Tierney and Nancy Meuleners.
Jennifer Tierney came here today from North Carolina in memory of her father James Mooney. James was killed in 1983 when his car crashed into a truck that did not have working lights, reflective tape, or underride guards. Since her father’s death, Jennifer has lent her time and support for countless truck safety initiatives. Because of her passion and grit, the U.S. DOT upgraded the original rear underride guard standard for trucks in 1996. But, Jennifer never gives up. She is here to lend her support for the improvements which will be achieved with passage of The Stop Underrides Act.
Nancy Meuleners is one of the few people I know who has survived a violent truck underride crash. She traveled to be here today from Minnesota. In December 1989, Nancy crashed into the rear of a semi-trailer that was stopped in traffic without its emergency lights on. As a result of the crash, Nancy sustained serious and lifelong injuries. For over 25 years Nancy has been an impassioned advocate for truck underride guards as well as other major truck safety improvements.
This is a critical time for truck safety. Every day on average somewhere across the country, someone is killed or injured in a horrific underride crash. Too many people are needlessly dying in truck crashes and safety solutions are needlessly languishing. As we enter the holiday season with millions of families traveling on the roads, let’s all work to stop these underride crashes, deaths and injuries. Let’s all work to get this bi-partisan bill passed.