Laurie and Randy Higginbotham are in Washington D.C. today to talk with trucking and insurance companies about underride guards as a result of their son’s death in 2014 involving a tractor-trailer.

Her son, Michael Higginbotham, died in November of 2014 when he ran into a truck that was making an illegal U-turn.

Round Table Discussions

Local Memphis reports that the Higginbothams will be meeting with lawmakers for several days in round table discussions with trucking and insurance industry leaders.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), “In 2015, 301 of the 1,542 passenger vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes with a tractor-trailer died when their vehicles struck the side of a tractor-trailer.”

Since her son’s death, the Higginbothams have been advocates for safety side panels called “underrides”; currently, they are hoping for these safety panels to become standard on all tractor-trailers.

“It breaks my heart that there is a mechanism that could save lives, that could have saved Michael’s life and that he would be here with us doing all the things he enjoyed doing,” said Laurie Higginbotham.

Underride Guards

The Institute for Highway Safety released test results earlier this year that indicate that the use of strong side guards, aka underrides, could prevent many deaths in crashes hitting the side of tractor-trailers.

“The tests conducted this spring mark the first time that IIHS has evaluated a side underride guard. IIHS ran two 35-mph crash tests: one with an AngelWing side underride protection device from Airflow Deflector Inc. and the second test with a fiberglass side skirt intended to improve aerodynamics, not to prevent underride. The results were dramatically different.”

The comparison between weak and strong underride guards shows the difference between guards that are intended to cut costs by improving aerodynamics, versus guards that are intended for the safety.

IIHS estimates that half of fatal crashes between large trucks and passenger vehicles underride occurs.

Federal Law

Currently, federal law requires large trucks to have rear underride guards; however, only 3 states mandate side guards rails – and those mandates only apply to city-owned or contracted trucks.

Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, along with the Higginbothams, is believed to be making moves to enact this safety legislation.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer also issued a statement calling for immediate federal action to require “energy absorbing underride guards” on all semi trucks following a crash that happened on I-81 earlier this year that left four people dead. Read more here.

Higginbothams’ meetings are planned to last a majority of the week.