A recent investigation conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety discovered some serious issues with a crucial safety feature of tractor-trailers. The IIHS report noted that underride guards frequently fail to do their job of keeping passenger vehicles out from under big rigs, something that has resulted in hundreds of deaths across the country in only the last few years.
The underride guard is a metal bar that is attached to the back of a semi truck’s bumper. The bar is designed to prevent a passenger vehicle from subducting, or being squashed underneath, the trailer in the event of a rear-end accident. This is so important because a car that ends up underneath the back end of a trailer almost always ends up with the pillars of the vehicle absorbing the brunt of the force rather than the front-end crash zone. This is bad news for drivers because the crash zone has been designed to protect drivers and an accident that takes out the vehicle’s pillars likely ends with the death of front-seat passengers.
Though the underride guard works in theory, the reality is that design issues and maintenance problems undercut its reliability in real world accidents. Experts say that one major problem is that safety regulations regarding underride guards have not been changed since 1998, a very long time in automotive years. Since the late 90s passenger vehicles have gotten much lower to the ground to increase aerodynamics and improve fuel efficiency. Despite these changes, the design of underride guards has remained the same, putting millions of drivers at risk.
The IIHS put some of the most popular underride guards to the test to demonstrate how unreliable some models were and the results were shocking. The tests found that one of the most popular underride guards on the market, made by Hyundai, failed at even relatively slow speeds. In one case, a test vehicle driven at 35 miles per hour was enough to shatter the bolts holding the underride guard to the frame of the truck, causing the guard to crumble and fail.
Beyond design issues, maintenance is another serious problem. Highway safety experts say that underride guards appear rusted, worn, bent or even clearly broken on many trucks, damage that is obvious to anyone driving around on the nation’s roadways. Any structural damage to the underride guards greatly reduces their effectiveness, increasing the chance that an innocent Iowa motorist is killed.
Federal studies have shown that the risk of death from underride accidents is serious. One study found that between 2010 and 2012 there were 724 deaths among motorists involved in rear-end tractor-trailer accidents. The numbers confirmed that underriding was a factor in nearly 70 percent of all fatalities. The results confirm that stricter regulations and more active maintenance efforts could save hundreds of lives every year, a goal that everyone should support.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an Iowa car, truck, bus or motorcycle accident and you would like to discuss your case with an attorney, please contact the Iowa accident lawyers at the Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm PLC today at (888) 278-1027 to schedule a free consultation.
Source: “IIHS: Semi Trailers Could Cause Deadly Injuries,” by Ben Timmins, published at AutomobileMag.com.
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