Study Shows Underride Guards Aren't Enough

The potential danger of trucking accidents is very apparent to anyone driving down the highway. One of the most common and dangerous types of crashes that can occur with a big rig happens when a passenger car slides underneath the trailer, colliding with the truck's underride bracing.

These truck crashes cause more than 350 fatalities every year, even though certain safety features are required on underrides. But a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that these safety measures aren't enough.

Semi trucks are required to have reflective tape along the rear and sides of a trailer. The reflective tape was made a requirement in 1993 and the underride guards were first required in 1996. Unfortunately, many older trucks haven't been retrofitted with these safety features.

A metal structure, called an underride guard, must also be installed on trucks no more than 22 inches above the ground. In case of an underride crash, the guards are meant to make contact with the engine block of small passenger cars and block them from sliding under the trailer.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently conducted an experiment to test the effectiveness of the underride guards. They crashed a 2010 Chevy Malibu into a parked trailer with a rear-impact guard that meets U.S. standards. The guard gave way and the car slid under the trailer, resulting in the car getting crushed. Experimenters said that, had the vehicle been occupied, they would not have survived the crash.

The most common situation resulting in an underride crash is when a truck is making a U turn or a wide turn; if the cab is facing oncoming traffic it appears that the trailer should be straight behind it, when really the trailer is stretched across the path of oncoming traffic.

Many researchers are concerned that U.S. standards for rear-impact guards aren't enough to keep drivers safe in the case of an underride crash. If you or someone you know has been the victim of one of these accidents, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options.