A fatal truck crash near Buffalo in January led New York Senator Charles Schumer to once again call for increased truck safety. Specifically, Schumer is concerned about underride accidents, particularly gruesome accidents that are usually fatal. Schumer and other advocates have repeatedly demanded that federal regulators require semi-trucks to carry underride guards to prevent such accidents. So far, little action has been taken regarding their concerns making future underride accidents an inevitability.
22-Vehicle Collision in Buffalo Truck Crash
On January 2, 2018, at around 2:30 p.m., Edward “Eto” Torres was driving on the New York State Thruway near Exit 49 in wind-swept snow when the tractor-trailer he was following stopped suddenly for an accident further up the road. Torres, who had been in Buffalo to see his two-year-old granddaughter and was headed to work, was not able to stop in time and crashed into the back of the truck.
More than 20 vehicles were ultimately involved in the pile-up on I-90 East and two people, including Torres, were taken to the hospital with critical injuries. Torres later died. First responders called the Buffalo truck crash a “Mass Casualty Incident” in response to the number of vehicles involved.
Following Torres’ death, his family released a statement remembering him as the father of three grown children and two grandchildren.
“Ed was a hard working man that loved fiercely. His ability to maintain close relationships with friends and family that distance and time could not separate was incredible.”
The accident resulted in all lanes between exits 50 and 48A being closed for hours. Officials were dispatched to perform welfare checks on those people affected by the closures and buses were provided to take motorists to warming shelters.
Along with Schumer, Torres’ family called on the federal government to strengthen regulations related to underride guards on trucks.
“Underride guards are a proven technology that will save lives and make our roads safer,” Schumer said. “We all know the roads can be treacherous during a WNY snowstorm. Drivers trying to get to work or bring their children to school should not have to worry about truck safety standards that are lacking.”
Schumer and other politicians are pushing for approval of bipartisan legislation called the Stop Underrides Act of 2017.
Stop Underrides Act of 2017
The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 (H.R. 4622) was introduced in response to what politicians and safety advocates say is an unreasonably high number of preventable deaths and injuries linked to underride truck crashes. According to text in the legislation, Congress finds that underride crashes are a “significant public health and safety threat.”
“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that hundreds of preventable fatalities and life-threatening injuries have occurred as a result of underride crashes.”
The legislation would require that the rear underride guard standard be updated to increase their effectiveness, that trucks carry side and front underride guards, and that all large trucks be regularly checked to ensure compliance with the laws.
Underride Crashes Particularly Gruesome
Underride crashes occur when a smaller passenger vehicle collides with a semi-truck, and all or part of the passenger vehicle becomes wedged or trapped under the truck. These accidents can be particularly gruesome because of the severe, usually fatal injuries sustained by people in the passenger vehicle.