Underride Accidents and the Woman Dedicated To Their Prevention

It is a haunting story that defies comparison: 30 miles north of Los Angeles, just outside of Valencia, an unstable, 46 year-old man slams his Honda Accord into the back of a parked tractor-trailer, instantly killing himself and his two young children. It is later determined that the man, who had been embroiled in a vicious custody battle with his ex-wife over the now deceased children, had driven his car into the truck deliberately. It was a horrific act of vehicular homicide, only a few weeks shy of Christmas, that claimed the lives of two innocent children and left a family in shambles. A homicide, that at least in one woman’s mind, potentially could have been prevented – if only for that moment – had the right precautions been installed.

The $100 Idea

In the summer of 2013 Marianne Karth and her two daughters, AnnaLeah and Mary, were traveling westbound on Interstate 20, between Augusta, GA and Atlanta. Both girls, teenagers at the time, were in the backseat of their mother’s blue Crown Victoria when a semi-truck that was hauling cars hit them from behind. The driver, Kishigsaikhan Dorj of Los Angeles, had struck the car as he attempted to illegally switch lanes. The momentum of the collision spun Marianne’s car completely around and wedged the backseat of the vehicle underneath another tractor trailer in front of them. One of the girls was killed instantly, the other died three days later at a nearby hospital.

The Karth family was devastated. When Marianne returned home, there were reminders of her two girls everywhere. After weeks of wrestling with the tragedy, she decided to take her pain and dedicate it to a cause. Marianne, along with her husband of almost 40 years, joined the Truck Safety Coalition – a group of victims and families affected by trailer truck accidents. Every year, thousands of motorists are killed or critically injured by big-rigs, with over 500 of those being underride accidents, like the one Marianne experienced with her daughters.

In the years since, Marianne and her husband have targeted “underride guards” in particular. The guard is comprised of two steel bars, connected by one longer bar, that runs the length of the truck’s rear end. In theory, the guard is designed to prevent cars from slipping underneath the very high sides of the truck’s trailer. In practice, it is questionable at best. Despite a mandatory overhaul in 1996, most guard designs remain antiquated and barely offer any protection to passing motorists. And like the case in Valencia, as well as Marianne’s, these safety features can bend, break and sheer off at the right speeds.

To that end, Mrs. Karth successfully petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open an investigation into current standards and practices in regards to these devices. The subsequent study, in conjunction with the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, Inc., proved that a simple $100 addition to the already simplistic underride guard design could potentially save hundreds of lives each year.

The Time To Act

However, this study and the solution it proposes, has been a long time coming. Even after the much publicized death of silver screen star Jane Mansfield in a 1967 underride accident, it took decades for trucking companies to respond appropriately. So, unfortunately, we could be a number of years off before seeing any significant change, industry wide. In the meantime, if you have been hurt in a truck accident or lost a loved one to an underride collision, contact the Demas Law Group, P.C., today for more information. You have options and we will help you discover them.