As the attorneys who help clients injured in truck wrecks are well aware, thousands of deadly semi truck accidents happen every year in the U.S. Many of these trucking wrecks are underride accidents involving passenger vehicles that slide under the side or rear of taller semi trucks and are crushed in the process.
Although side underride guards that can reduce the severity of these trucking accidents do exist, they are not mandatory because the effectiveness of side underride guards has been continually challenged. The recent release of a new safety study performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hopes to shed some light on the benefit of underride side guards.1
Underride Accidents and Use of Guards
When passenger vehicles collide and slide under tractor trailers, semi truck accident attorneys know the results can be devastating. Smaller vehicles can be caught under the rear or sides of these trucks. According to IIHS research, more than 3600 people have been fatally injured in side underride trucking accidents in the U.S. in the last decade.1 This equates to nearly 5% of all fatal semi truck wrecks due to all reasons.
Although research suggests that more rear underride trucking wrecks occur every year, the number of fatal injuries is considerably less with only an estimated 2,400 fatalities occurring in the same time period. This suggests that rear underride guards, which have been mandatory on U.S. trucks for many years, are helping to reduce fatalities. In further news about the value of rear underride guards, the IIHS awarded (5) semitrailer manufacturers in North American the new "Toughguard" award recognizing the design and value of their rear underride guards.2
Based on this information, the IIHS and many semi truck accident lawyers agree that side underride guards would do the same.
IIHS Studies on Guards Suggest Safety Effectiveness
To prove that side underride guards can reduce fatal underride trucking wrecks, the IIHS performed an extensive study on side and rear underride semi truck accidents and a number of crash tests.1 This included two separate 35 MPH crash tests to observe the effectiveness of two different accessories available to the trucking industry. One accessory was a structural, protective underride guard with an aerodynamic skirt. The other was an aerodynamic skirt without structural support.
Truck wreck attorneys assert that the results of these crash tests clearly indicate that underride guards improve safety. They suggest that side underride guards have the potential to reduce fatalities in semi truck wrecks in the same way as rear underride guards. The crash tests also proved that flimsy aerodynamic wings offer little to no crash resistance.1 The structural support of a sturdy underride guard is necessary to prevent smaller vehicles from sliding under a tractor trailer.
Based on extensive research and testing, the IIHS along with other safety advocates and semi truck accident attorneys across the country stress the need for laws concerning the installation of side underride guards on tractor trailers.
There is strong evidence that reducing the severity of both rear or side underride trucking accidents can save lives. Conclusions also suggest that side underride guards could even play a role in improving fuel efficiency while also increasing safety in underride trucking wrecks!
Hildebrand & Wilson, Attorneys at Law
7930 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
1Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: IIHS Tests Show Benefits of Side Underride Guards for Semitrailers, May 10, 2017
2Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: IIHS Recognized Semitrailers With Good Underride Guards, March 1, 2017