How Truck Underride Guards Save Lives

How Truck Underride Guards Save Lives

Crashes involving semi trucks are often catastrophic. That’s due in part to the size and heavy weight of tractor-trailers, but many fatalities and serious injuries occur because of a largely preventable phenomenon—one called underride. Underride happens when a passenger vehicle slides under the truck or trailer. This can turn even a low-speed crash deadly, as the car is crushed or even run over by the truck or trailer’s wheels. 

Fortunately, underride guards, when used and when suitably sturdy, can prevent this from happening. Essentially, they act as an oversized bumper, protecting the rear, sides and front of a truck and stopping a car from entering the area between the truck’s tires.

Why rear underride guards are getting stronger

Rear underride guards have been required on many types of trucks since the 1950s, but even as safety standards grew tougher, there still wasn’t a guarantee the guards could hold up in a crash. In fact, in 2011, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety  (IIHS) found major problems with most rear underride guards. In a series of tests, the IIHS crashed a midsize car into the back of a parked tractor-trailer. 

While all guards performed adequately when struck in the dead center, some of them failed when struck on the corner—a likely real-world scenario with just 50-30 percent of the car making contact with the truck. Since then, major trailer manufacturers have updated and improved their designs. In 2018, all eight major manufacturers passed the IIHS’s safety tests

Side underride guards: still lacking

Even with better rear guards on the road, drivers are still at risk. Side guards currently aren’t required at all by federal safety standards. Like rear guards, side guards prevent cars from drifting under the trailer. IIHS research suggests that these guards could reduce the rate of injuries in three-quarters of serious or fatal semi truck crashes.

So why aren’t these guards required? Advocacy groups and even some trucking industry groups are already strongly in favor, and after-market upgrades that work already exist. 

In early 2019, the bipartisan Stop Underrides Act was introduced in the Senate. Sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio and others, the bill aims to require rear, side and front guards on certain types of heavy trucks. To prevent shoddy protections, the bill also requires that the guards be effective at 35 mph. Currently, the Stop Underrides Act is with the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Protections like those offered by the Stop Underrides Act could better protect U.S. drivers from the catastrophic results of even low-speed tractor-trailer crashes.

Macon truck accident attorneys

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, you need a personal injury attorney. The Macon truck accident lawyers at Buzzell, Welsh & Hill understand the complexity of these cases, and they know how to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us for a free consultation today.

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