When a car or van collides with a semi or other large commercial truck, the size difference between the vehicles puts the car occupants at a major risk of serious injury. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 70 percent of people killed in large truck accidents are occupants of passenger vehicles.
When a passenger vehicle not only collides with a large truck but continues to travel beneath it — a type of accident known as a truck underride crash — the truck body may crush the passenger compartment of the passenger vehicle, creating an extremely high risk of death or catastrophic injury for its occupants. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that about 423 people are killed in underride truck accidents each year, and over 5,000 more are injured.
To help reduce injuries and fatalities from truck underride accidents, the federal government established regulations in 1998 requiring all newly manufactured truck trailers to be equipped with rear underride prevention guards. Unfortunately, according to a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, these devices are prone to failure even in relatively low-speed crashes, leaving drivers and passengers at risk of death or serious injury.
Crash Tests Reveal Design Flaws
To test the effectiveness of three different models of underride guards, researchers from the IIHS performed crash tests using a truck trailer and a midsize sedan with a five-star safety rating. In one of the tests, the underride guard bent forward and sheared off after being hit at just 35 miles per hour, causing the passenger compartment of the car to be almost completely crushed. Even the strongest guards performed well only when struck squarely in the center; cars that struck to the left or right of center were still subjected to dangerous amounts of underride.
In light of its findings, the IIHS is petitioning the federal government to issue new regulations requiring stronger underride guards designed to stay in place during a crash. Adrian Lund, president of the IIHS, said in a press release that stricter standards are necessary to bring underride guard technology up to date with other vehicle safety enhancements that have been made in recent decades.
Legal Help After a Crash
People injured in accidents involving commercial vehicles may be able to receive financial compensation for their injuries, medical bills and other expenses. To discuss a potential claim, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.