How Did Movie Star Jayne Mansfield Improve Highway Safety?

Actress Jayne Mansfield was famous for her sexy image. She starred in many movies in the 50’s and 60’s, won acting awards, and was one of the first Playmates. The Dallas resident studied at UT and SMU where I graduated in the 70’s.

But Mansfield is tragically remembered for the tragic tractor-trailer accident that killed her in 1967.

Mansfield was a passenger in a Buick that slammed into the back of an 18 wheeler. The car slid underneath the trailer’s carriage and killed her and two other adult passengers. She was only 34. Two other people died but miraculously her two children were not injured.

Her legacy survives today, not only in film and photographs, but every time you see a tractor-trailer. Her crash directly led to regulations requiring installation of red and white bars at the rear of semi-trucks. “Mansfield bars” are required on all tractor-trailers to stop cars from sliding underneath the truck.

But here’s the problem. Mansfield bars prevent under-ride in a medium impact rear-end collisions, such as occurred in Mansfield’s case. However, the bars aren’t often strongenough to stop high-impact crashes.

Nor are they required on the sides of trucks, so they don’t stop cars from sliding under from the side either.

Here’s a photo from a case I handled where my client was lucky to survive a crash with an 18 wheeler that suddenly cut in front of her.

Under-ride crashes are exactly as awful as the word implies. During a collision with a tractor-trailer, the car slides underneath the semi, either sheering off or crushing the top of the car. The occupants of the car don’t stand a chance.

But what if these under-ride collisions could be close to totally avoided?

Time to update the laws requiring undercarriage bars

A 2012 Institute for Highway Safety study determined that strong under-ride guards could cut the risk of injuries in these accidents by 90 percent.

Let’s apply this extraordinary figure to real-life statistics. 750 people died in under -ride collisions in 2015. Could 675 of those deaths really have been avoided by installing stronger bars?

We have the technology. So, why aren’t stronger bars required on tractor-trailers? And, why aren’t they required on the sides of trucks?

This is a question two mothers are asking. Both lost their daughters in under-ride crashes.

In one accident, a tractor-trailer hit Marianne Karth’s Crown Victoria. The car spun around and landed under the rear of another tractor-trailer. The bar gave way and the car rode underneath the truck’s carriage. Marianne and her son, who were in the front seat, survived, but her daughters in the back seat did not.

In the other accident Roya Sadigh’s fiancé lost control of his BMW on a snowy highway. The passenger side of the car rode underneath the side of a tractor-trailer, got trapped and was dragged. Roya was crushed in the accident. The fiancé’s side of the car was not pulled underneath the semi, and he survived.

Unbelievably, side guards are not required by law. But they should be.

Look at these two pictures. One shows a car hitting the side of truck without a side guard. The other shows what a side guard can do. 




Berenson Injury Law has handled tractor-trailer claims for 37 years. Under-rides result in some of the worst injuries and highest rates of death. The technology is available and relatively inexpensive. I hold the trucking corporations responsible for not taking this simple action to protect motorists’ lives.

Share This Post