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IIHS says tractor trailers need safety improvements

Commercial trucking companies need to improve their safety standards to protect the public from rear-end collisions, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently reported. The IIHS reported that commercial trucking companies are still building unsafe tractor trailers that can cause fatalities in rear-end accidents with commercial trucks.

Their latest safety test found that a majority of commercial trucks in the U.S. are unable to prevent cars from sliding under the back of the tractor trailer in a trucking accident. Commercial trucks are required to have underride guards along the back of the vehicle to prevent vehicles from going underneath the trailer.

The safety test found that underride guards were able to prevent fatalities when the car hit at least 50 percent or more of the underride guard on the back of the trailer. However, when the car hit less than 50 percent of the underride guard, often at one of the sides of the trailer, the consequences were devastating to the passengers in the car.

The study found that rear-ending tractor trailers on one side of the underride guard resulted in such serious head and neck injuries that any passengers in the car would be killed. This was found to be true even when the car was going as slow as 35 mph during an accident.

The IIHS issued a recommendation to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to increase their safety standards regarding underride guards on commercial trucks. However, the NHTSA has yet to revise any of their standards. The NHTSA said that they are currently working on ways to improve underride guard protection on commercial trucks and that the public should know that their safety is their top priority.

While the NHTSA is working on improving the safety of commercial trucks, car accidents involving rear-end collisions with tractor trailers continue to happen. In 2011, 260 people were killed in truck accidents that involved vehicles going underneath the truck's underride guard. That number has decreased from 460 reported in 2004 but officials attribute the decrease to the recession and fewer miles travelled by all drivers.

Public safety officials say that more needs to be done to prevent these types of accidents from occurring as well the NHTSA needs to improve safety standards for commercial trucks operating in the U.S.

Source: USA Today, "Insurance institute warns truck guards allow crashes," Larry Copeland, March 14, 2013

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