Rear-ending a tractor-trailer continues to be one of the leading ways that motorists are injured or killed in accidents with large commercial trucks.
Alabama trucking accident attorneys know that underride guards fail in far too many cases, often because they are poorly or improperly designed. When a car travels underneath a commercial trailer, fatal injuries often result. The government has done little to protect motorists, despite the growing body of evidence surrounding failing underride guards on large commercial trailers.
Consumer Reports cites a comprehensive study released last year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which found even underride guards that meet federal safety standards often fail — even in a low-speed accident. This remains a critical safety issue because 7 of every 10 people killed in accidents with large trucks are riding in passenger vehicles. The IIHS estimates that underride accidents claim approximately 400 lives each year and result in more than 5,000 serious injuries.
Undderide crashes occur when the bar at the rear of a trailer fails during an accident, allowing a vehicle to travel beneath the trailer. Even modern vehicles, built to withstand significant frontal impact, are not designed for passenger safety in the event of an underride accident.
“You might be riding in a vehicle that earns top marks in frontal crash tests, but if the truck’s underride guard fails — or isn’t there at all — your chances of walking away from even a relatively low-speed crash aren’t good,” said Adrian Lund, IIHS president.
It’s no secret within the industry — the IIHS has been conducting these tests since the 1970s. In this test, researchers used three semis with underride guards that met federal highway safety standard. Several of these trailers were equipped with guards that also meet more stringent Canadian standards.
When a 2010 Chevy Malibu crashed into the back end of the tractor trailers, the results were not encouraging for occupants — despite the car’s 5-star safety rating. And, while the Canadian guards performed better than those certified for use in the United States, substantial underride risks remain. This is particularly true in crashes where a vehicle hits the guard at an angle. Even at speeds as low as 35 mph, decapitation was found to be a serious threat if the car traveled beneath the trailer due to underride failure.
Researchers say it’s critical that manufacturers accept responsibility for making these guards perform as intended — and that includes more testing.
“Some manufacturers do test guards on the trailer — we think all guards should be evaluated this way,” said Lund. “At the least, all rear guards should be as strong as the best one we tested.”
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