For the most part, the underride guards of large, commercial trucks are doing a good job in helping to protect passenger vehicle occupants.
The standards for the strength of these guards have improved in recent years -- and we're all safer for it. On the other hand these guards are primarily helping to prevent injury in straight-on rear-end accidents, and not when passenger vehicles make contact with side portions of the rear of these trucks.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), most semi-trucks are required to have these underride guards. Officials with IIHS are pushing to get these guards on even more vehicles though -- including dump trucks. These guards are steel bars that hang from the back of a large trailer or truck to help to keep passenger vehicles from sliding underneath in the event of a collision. Back in 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) enacted tougher standards for these guards following a number of studies that proved they initial standards weren't strong enough. Unfortunately, Canada still has better standards.
Our Asheville trucking accident lawyers understand that our passenger vehicles don't stand much of a chance against large, commercial vehicles. We should rely on our safe driving habits to keep us out of accidents with these trucks, but we should also be able to rely on their underride guards to help to protect us in the event of an unavoidable accident.
The IIHS is working for tougher standards, but still haven't heard back from the NHTSA. According to recent IIHS studies, these guards generally work well to prevent underride, except in crashes occurring at the outer edges of trailers. It's time to make them work under all conditions.
The good news is that many underride guards do meet the current standards. As a matter of fact, many of them exceed the current standards. Officials believe that this is because the trucks are keeping up with the Canadian standards. Still, all of this is virtually worthless if you're slamming into only a portion of the rear end of a truck.
In 2011, less than 300 of the estimated 2,240 passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in accidents with a large truck were killed when the front of their vehicle slammed into the back of a truck. While that's still an alarmingly high number, that's a number that was nearly cut in half since 2004. Although many would like to credit the tougher standards for this decrease, officials also place a large part of the credit to the fact that both trucks and passenger car drivers have been spending less time on the road with our struggling economy.
In the meantime, we're asking drivers to be on their best behavior out there while sharing the road with these large trucks. You never want to travel too closely. They take a lot longer than we do to stop, and your risks for a rear-end accidents jump when you don't allow any ample amount of following space. Back off and stay safe.