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Currently, federal trucking regulations do not require side guards on commercial trucks, which, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), is a significant safety concern. The safety barriers would prevent vehicles from sliding under the side of trucks in the event of an accident. The lack of these important safety features is especially alarming given the IIHS’s review of federal data from 2015, which revealed that 20 percent of the 1,500 car passenger fatalities associated with tractor-trailer crashes occurred when the vehicle hit the side of the truck. Most trucks have aerodynamic side skirts that improve gas mileage, but do not assist in preventing side collisions and the consequent fatalities.
Federal law does require trucks to have rear underride guards designed to prevent truck underride accidents that occur when cars crash into the back of trucks and slide underneath. However, even with federal regulation, these rear guards are accomplishing little more than the nonregulated side guards. According to tests conducted by the IIHS, the rear-impact guards are failing even at relatively low speeds of around 35 miles per hour. By contrast, Canadian rear-barriers are 75 percent stronger than U.S. rear-barriers and when put to the same 35-mile-per-hour tests, the Canadian ones held up properly whereas the U.S. ones gave way.
The proposed new side guards for trucks would render the risk of serious injury relatively low. Safety experts are supportive of these new safety barriers because they would help save people from fatal injuries. The IIHS estimates that the side guards would cost approximately $3,000 to $4,500 per truck. Many truckers agree with the IIHS that if there is a relatively inexpensive mechanism that can save lives, it is an option worth considering.
The American Trucking Association does not agree that installing safety barriers on large trucks is the best solution. Instead, they say that preventing crashes through new technology is preferable. New technology, such as automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning systems, would help to prevent not only side-crashes and underride accidents, but all types of collisions between cars and trucks. A spokesperson for the trucking industry says that side guards amount to collision mitigation, which is not in line with the association’s primary safety goal of collision avoidance.
It is unclear whether the government will be mandating the implementation of side guards on trucks any time soon. Truckers released a highway safety message about sharing the roads with larger trucks. Their main piece of advice is to keep distance. Large trucks cannot stop as fast as cars and they have many blind spots. Understanding these limitations may help drivers to avoid potentially fatal crashes.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, contact an experienced Wilmington truck accident lawyer at Rhoades & Morrow. Our lawyers are knowledgeable about state and federal regulations for the trucking industry and are experienced in representing victims of truck accidents.
We have offices in Wilmington, Bear, and Milford, and we proudly represent clients throughout upstate and downstate Delaware. Complete our online form or call our Wilmington office at 302-427-9500, our Bear office at 302-834-8484, or our Milford office at 302-422-6705, to schedule a free consultation today.