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Legal Blog

Side and Rear Guards May Prevent Underride Accidents

Big 'ol Semi Truck

Across the nation, accidents involving trucks often produce devastating results. This is particularly true when a vehicle colliding with a large tractor-trailer travels underneath the side or rear of the truck’s cabin. These underride accidents often produce serious injury or death, sometimes resulting in the decapitation of the front seat occupants.

Many underride collisions occur at the rear end of large commercial tractor-trailers. They can also take place when trucks block the pathway of traffic during a turn, execute a U-turn, or enter a business driveway at night. Approximately one-fourth of all truck accident fatalities are a result of underride collisions. Many of the serious injuries that are caused by these accidents include amputation, brain injury, and paralysis. Government statistics indicate that more than 200 people lose their lives each year due to side underride accidents involving large 18 wheeler trucks.

At The Krist Law Firm, P.C., we understand the devastation and loss you may be facing as a result of injuries you have incurred in a truck accident. Our team will help you understand your options. We can fight to help you obtain the maximum compensation you are owed at this difficult time.

To speak with one of our experienced truck accident attorneys, call (281) 283-8500 today, or contact us online to request a free initial consultation.

Devastation of Underride Accidents

According to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), of the 1,542 car occupants killed in truck accidents in 2015, 301 died as a result of crashing into the side of a truck’s trailer. The IIHS states that approximately one-half of all deadly accidents that include a truck with a trailer involved an underride collision. What makes these accidents so deadly is that the normal forms of protection provided to front seat occupants are ineffective against these crashes by themselves due to the fact that the entire top of a car can be torn off when it collides with the bottom of a large truck’s trailer.

Side Underride Accidents

A side underride collision involves the impact of a vehicle into the side of a commercial truck or the trailer of an 18-wheeler. One of the most severe forms of these collisions is when a vehicle passes underneath the trailer with the bottom of the trailer cutting into the top portion of the car. This type of underride impact can occur as a vehicle travels perpendicular to an 18-wheeler. The results can include the disfigurement and/or death of the car’s occupants.

Prevention
At the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in Ruckersville, VA, a crash test was performed in August 2017 that featured a new, innovative side guard technology for trailers called “AngelWing.”

AngelWing is a device manufactured by AirFlow Deflector that is installed to both sides of a tractor-trailer for the purpose of preventing a midsize car from passing underneath the trailer. The above-mentioned test conducted by IIHS involved a 2009 Chevy Malibu sedan impacting the AngelWing device at 40 miles per hour. The test was successful as the device prevented the sedan from passing underneath the trailer.

Although the U.S. Department of Transportation has mandated underride guards be installed on the backs of trailers since the early 1950s, no laws, regulations, or rules have been put in place requiring side guards. AngelWing is presently the only device available to prevent passenger cars from slipping underneath trailers. The IIHS claims that this device has the capability to prevent serious injuries and deaths from occurring as the result of underride accidents.

Despite the apparent benefits in terms of safety and potential reduction in fatalities, the trucking industry has reservations about any plan to mandate this device on tractor-trailers. President of the Truck Trailer Manufactures Association, Jeff Simms, asserts that the added weight to tractor-trailers imposed by the AngelWing side guards would give trucking companies no choice but to reduce payload from each truck, thus requiring more tractor-trailers on the road. This would effectively nullify any overall safety benefits the AngelWings provide.

Rear Underride Accidents

Underride guards are metal barriers that extend downward below the rear end of a tractor-trailer. Their purpose is to prevent a car from sliding underneath the back of the trailer. Accidents involving rear impact to tractor-trailers can have tragic and potentially deadly results if the underride guards buckle or break upon impact.

Prevention
Per federal law, large trucks are required to have rear underride guards installed. The government has mandated that these guards meet certain safety standards. However, initial crash tests conducted by IIHS discovered that many rear underride guards could fail at impact.

Insufficiently designed underride guards are highly susceptible to failure, which can result in fatalities. As well, the IIHS determined that when vehicles collide with these guards off-center, , the guards are much less effective at preventing vehicle intrusion to the underside of the trailer, and thus at preventing fatalities.

Between 2013 and 2017, several other companies redesigned their rear underride guards, increasing their strength to pass the IIHS crash tests. In March 2017, IIHS issued TOUGHGUARD awards to manufacturers of rear guards that successfully prevented a midsize car from underriding the back end of a tractor-trailer in three different test scenarios. Five manufacturers produce products that passed the tests, including Manac, Vanguard, Great Dane, Wabash, and Stoughton.

After initial testing in 2011, the IIHS appealed to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA) to enhance its rear underride guard safety standards. As of 2017, the NHSA has not upgraded the standard. However, the agency has proposed some changes.

It is hoped that raising awareness of this issue through the tests conducted by IIHS will influence the NHSA to make the necessary changes to its safety standards for rear underride guards. Facilitating implementation of improved safety requirements for side underride guards will be more challenging since federal law does not currently mandate these devices on tractor-trailers.

Contact a Skilled Houston Truck Accident Lawyer

At The Krist Law Firm, P.C., our skilled truck accident attorneys are able to fully investigate the cause of your accident and fight vigorously on your behalf for any and all compensation to which you are entitled.

To set up a free case evaluation, contact us today at (281) 283-8500.