My brother, Mike, recently sent me the above photo of a plaque located at what is possibly the spot where the popular actress Jayne Mansfield died in an auto accident shortly after 2:00 a.m. on June 29, 1967. He also told me the following story that is associated with that accident.
The 34 year old Mansfield, who was performing at a supper club in Biloxi, Mississippi, borrowed the club owner’s car to drive into New Orleans for an early morning TV interview. Along the way, a tractor-trailer in front of them slowed down for a mosquito fogging truck, but Mansfield’s driver didn’t notice that it had slowed. Their car hit and went under the trailer, shearing off the top of the car and instantly killing the driver, Mansfield, and her boyfriend. The three children in the backseat – including Mariska Hargitay, who is now an actress – sustained only minor injuries.
As sometimes happens, something good came out of that tragedy – something that could one day save your life and the lives of those you love. The trailer that sheared off the top of the car and killed the three people in the front seat did not have an underride guard which would have prevented the car from going under the trailer. As a result of this high-profile accident, the federal government put in place a rule that every tractor-trailer (and other high trucks) must have such a guard. It’s fitting that the life-saving underride guard is commonly referred to as a Mansfield bar.
If, after reading this, you find yourself noticing every red and white Mansfield bar on every sort of truck you see, don’t blame me, blame Mike.