How the ‘Mansfield Bar’ came to be known as the ‘Mansfield Bar’
The ‘Mansfield Bar’ is an underride guard which is an assembly hanging down from the bottom of the rear of a semi-trailer. It is intended to provide some protection for cars which start to run into the rear of the trailer. The bottom of the rear of the trailer is near head level for an adult in a car, and without the underride guard, the only protection for an adult’s head in such an accident would be the car’s windshield. This came into use in the aftermath of the accident that killed Jayne Mansfield on June 29, 1967.
While in Biloxi, Mississippi, for an engagement at the Gus Stevens Supper Club, Jayne Mansfield stayed at the Cabana Courtyard Apartments, which were near the supper club. After a June 28, 1967 evening engagement, Mansfield, Sam Brody (her divorce lawyer), and their driver, 20 year old Ronnie Harrison, along with the actress’s children Miklós, Zoltán, and Mariska, set out in Stevens’ 1966 Buick Electra 225 for New Orleans, where Mansfield was to appear in an early morning television interview. Before leaving Biloxi, the party made a stop at the home of Rupert and Edna O’Neal, a family that lived nearby. After a late dinner with the O’Neals, during which the last photographs of Mansfield were taken, the party set out for New Orleans. On June 29 at approximately 2:25 a.m., on U.S. Highway 90, the car crashed into the rear of a tractor-trailer that had slowed because of a truck spraying mosquito fogger. The automobile struck the rear of the trailer and went under it. Riding in the front seat, the adults were killed instantly. The children in the rear survived with minor injuries.
Rumors that Mansfield was decapitated are untrue, though she did suffer severe head trauma. This urban legend was spawned by the appearance in police photographs of a crashed automobile with its top virtually sheared off, and what resembles a blonde-haired head tangled in the car’s smashed windshield. It is believed this was either a wig Mansfield was wearing or was her actual hair and scalp. The death certificate stated the immediate cause of Mansfield’s death was a “crushed skull with avulsion of cranium and brain.” Following her death, the NHTSA began requiring an underride guard, a strong bar made of steel tubing, to be installed on all tractor-trailers. The bar is officially referred to as an underride guard or a DOT bar, but many call it the “Mansfield Bar” after Jayne Mansfield.
**Mariska, one of the children in the back seat who survived the accident is Mariska Hargitay, daughter of Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay. Mariska is best known for her role as New York City sex crimes detective Olivia Benson on the NBC crime drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”, a role that has earned her multiple awards and nominations, includiding an Emmy and Golden Globe.