Here’s why those extensions on semi-trailers are called Mansfield bars

You probably have seen one of those reflector-tape adorned bars hanging below the tractor-trailer in front of you at a red light or out on the highway. Turns out it’s known as a Mansfield bar, and it didn’t used to appear on truck trailers. It’s designed to help prevent you from recreating its namesake’s death.

On June 28th, 1967, actress Jayne Mansfield, her driver, her lawyer and three of her kids were driving to New Orleans for an interview after an appearance in Mississippi. While cruising along the highway at two o’clock in the morning, the driver didn’t see a semi-truck that had slowed because of a mosquito fogging truck ahead — the fog masked the big rig’s trailer, and Mansfield’s driver couldn’t react in time to slow the 1966 Buick Electra 225. The car slid under the semi-trailer and Mansfield and the other adults didn’t survive.

Known technically as the Rear Underrun Protection System, the steel tubular bars immediately gained the name Mansfield bars: likely due to the gruesome severity of the crash, and Mansfield’s star status. Following her death, the U.S. government mandated trailers have a rear bumper to help prevent similar deaths. 

While the bar is designed to prevent people from sliding underneath semi-trailers, it doesn’t completely stop it: cars with low bumper heights and hood heights can still slide underneath a semi-trailer. There are updated designs that work even better to prevent this, but our recommendation is to focus on not hitting a semi-trailer with your car.

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