Jayne Mansfield Bars & the Need for Better Regulations for Big Trucks

JM Jayne Mansfield was a quintessential movie star, a blonde bombshell on the Hollywood scene in the late 1950s. Though she was fluent in five languages and reportedly had an I.Q. of 163, she was best known for gracing the cover of Playboy magazine and her numerous B-rated movies. But in 1967, she became famous for something else: her untimely and gruesome death due to a big rig commercial truck.

She was traveling along an interstate in Mississippi when her car ran into the back of an 18-wheeler. The car slid underneath the carriage of the truck, killing her, the driver and her boyfriend instantaneously. Her children in the back seat miraculously survived. Her daughter, Mariska Hargitay from Law & Order, still bears scars from the accident today.

JM2The collision sparked a call for reform, and in 1967, federal regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed requiring big rigs to have red and white striped rear underride guards to prevent cars from sliding underneath the rig. This sensible regulation took over 30 years to be adopted in 1998 and today is one of the very few safety regulations required of big rigs.

A new study was recently conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that shows that Mansfield Bars, although they work fairly well in a certain type of collision, fail miserably in other types of collisions. The following video shows what happens when instead of hitting the rig squarely, the car hits the rig at a 50% or a 30% angle. The result? The passenger compartment is crushed, rendering seat belts and airbags and other safety mechanisms totally useless.

Most underride guards fail to stop deadly crashes. Fortunately, there are better designs for the bars that drastically improve crashworthiness in a rear-end collision, including using better grade steel and extending the bars around the back and sides of the truck. The bad news is that the NHTSA does not require the better designed bars. Why should we care? In a 2011 study of 115 rear collision crashes with a big rig, 23 out of the 28 fatal crashes studied involved underride. This is a real problem that costs lives and there are alternatives out there to prevent it.

Americans traveling on the road are entitled to the best protections possible when it comes to safety regulations on these big rigs. That’s why Leslie vocally supports improving minimum safety regulations for tractor trailers in order to increase their crashworthiness and protect drivers, passengers and all those driving on the road today.

Leslie is a member of the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association and has access to the most current data available and connections with the most prominent injury lawyers in Arkansas today. If you or a member of your family is injured by a commercial truck, tractor-trailer, 18-wheeler or semi, you need to contact a lawyer immediately.  The truckers’ lawyers go to work the moment a crash occurs. Make sure that your lawyer does too.

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