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According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), nearly half of fatal car accidents involving a truck and passenger vehicle are due to so-called “underride.” During an underride accident, a passenger car slides under the trailer, putting the occupants in considerable danger.
To prevent serious and fatal truck accidents, two United States senators introduced a bill at the end of last year that would require all trucks to be outfitted with side underride guards.
Underride guards are safety shields designed to cover the open space between the undercarriage of the tractor trailer and the road below, preventing smaller vehicles from sliding underneath. IIHS crash tests of one type of reinforced side guard proved it was strong enough to stop a car traveling 35 miles an hour from going under the truck during a collision.
During the IIHS underride guard tests, a midsize car struck the back of a 53-foot trailer. The recommended side underride guard bent, but stopped the car from sliding under.
When the test car struck the underside of the truck with the metal skirt currently installed on many trucks, the impact sheared off the top of the car completely. The metal shields used now on most trucks are designed to increase aerodynamics, not necessarily prevent underride collisions. In a real-life crash, had the car been occupied, the passengers would have likely sustained fatal injuries.
In the late 1960’s, actress Jayne Mansfield was killed when her car slid under a semi-trailer. Despite calls for legislation to have all trucks fitted with rear-underride guards, also known as a Mansfield bar, the federal government did not require them until 1998.
Trucks currently are required to have metal rear guards, but they are not always strong enough to stop a car from sliding under. In 2001, the IIHS asked the government to improve rear underride guards, but not much has been done since.
Some big trucking lobbyists oppose any legislation, because of the added expense underride guards will cost owners and operators. They also say side underride guards have not been sufficiently tested and proven effective in the event of a crash.
Currently, three major U.S. cities require side underride guards on city-owned or operated trucks to save the lives of passengers in cars around them, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. Underride guards are required to be installed on trucks in Japan and multiple nations of the European Union.
Some studies estimate side guards can potentially reduce serious and fatal injuries in nearly 90% of car and truck crashes. Until they are required by law, drivers and pedestrians are still at risk of serious injury in a collision with a tractor-trailer.
If you sustained serious injuries in a truck accident, contact the Delaware truck accident lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow. Our highly-experienced team of personal injury lawyers fights for compensation for your injuries for medical bills, lost income and pain and suffering. Call 302-427-9500 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Our offices are located in Bear, Milford, and Wilmington to serve residents throughout Delaware.