Recalling a deadly accident in snowy weather on the New York State Thruway near Buffalo in early January, Senator Charles Schumer urged federal lawmakers Tuesday to pass new truck safety standards including mandatory underride guards on the rear and sides of every tractor-trailer.
Standing with Schumer in the park-and-ride lot just off Thruway Exit 49 in Depew were Marisabel and Corey Coogan, the daughter and son-in-law of Edward "Eto" Torres. On January 2, Torres was killed when his car struck the rear of a truck that, just before, had stopped to avoid a collision ahead.
The senator suggested that a life may have been saved if the truck was equipped with updated underride guards, which are designed to prevent a crashing vehicle from sliding beneath the higher tail end of the truck.
"The death that occurred here did not have to occur," said Schumer. "Underride guards are not expensive. They are easy and they will protect us from these kinds of crashes."
Under legislation Schumer is supporting, known as the Stop Underrides Act, existing rear underride guards would be updated. According to the senator, the standards for existing guards are outdated and the equipment does not work as well in collisions involving vehicles featuring crumple zones and airbag deployment sensors.
The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Marco Rubio, would also mandate underride guards on the sides of trucks and require inspections to include reviews of underride guard standards.
The Coogans did not speak during Tuesday's news conference. Schumer praised them, though, for becoming active in the push to approve the proposed legislation.
"A saintlike thing is to light a candle. Most people, when you face tragedy, curse the darkness," the senator said. "To do what they are doing, to prevent this from happening to other families, other individuals, is saintlike thing to do and I salute them for that."