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Device to keep cars out of semi truck gap may not be enough

Readers have probably noticed that 18-wheelers sit quite a bit higher off the road than other motor vehicles. The gap between the bottom of the trailer and the road is often high enough that a car could fit into it in an auto accident. Drivers and passengers can become trapped in their vehicles during a wreck, possibly increasing their chances of serious injury.

To prevent some of these truck accidents from happening, federal regulations require semi trucks to have underride guards. These are metal barriers that hang from the back of the trailer to keep passenger vehicles from slipping underneath -- at least in theory.

The reality is, the guards currently being used may not be sufficient to keep cars and trucks out. In 2011, 260 people were killed in passenger vehicles that were involved in rear-end collisions with tractor-trailers.

A similar accident led to tragedy for a North Carolina woman. She was travelling in another state with her teenage daughters when they were hit by a truck. Their car spun around and became trapped under an 18-wheeler. Both daughters died.

To honor their memory, the North Carolina woman is advocating for higher federal standards for underride guards. She believes that better guards might have prevented her daughters’ deaths.

Her work, combined with the efforts of lobby groups like the Truck Safety Coalition, may be paying off. An administrator with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that his agency is examining data and considering new regulations in this area.

It is scary just to imagine your vehicle sliding under a huge semi truck, leaving you unable to escape. Hopefully, such accidents will become rare in the future.

Source: WRTV-TV, “Mother loses daughters, raises truck underride concerns,” Kara Kenney, Sept. 30, 2013

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