Friday, December 20, 2013

Increased Risk of Semi Underride Accidents Revealed

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

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Icy Roads Lead To Dozens Of Accidents Across Iowa

Emergency officials across Iowa say that recent winter weather has led to a dramatic spike in traffic accidents and injuries, resulting in safety officials warning drivers to slow down and take special precautions when venturing out on snowy or icy roads.

Reports from the Iowa State Patrol reveal that there were 24 snow-related accidents in Iowa City over the weekend. Dangerous road conditions were responsible for a crash on I-80 that began when a tractor-trailer lost control and hit an Iowa State Patrol car, a tow truck and a Jeep before finally coming to a rest in the ditch. The accident left the police officer and the driver of the Jeep hospitalized with serious injuries.

Here in Des Moines, a section of I-80 was closed for more than an hour over the weekend following a 20-car pileup that authorities believe was related to winter weather. Unlike the deadly 25-car pileup that occurred around this same time last year, no fatalities were reported in the recent chain reaction crash.

Weather forecaster say that most of the state saw at least two inches of snow, even more here in Des Moines, though the snow was not what led to the most danger for motorists. Instead, meteorologists say that it was the frequent thawing and freezing of the snowy roads that created the unsafe road conditions. This melting created pockets of ice where drivers easily lost traction, leading to dozens of accidents across the state.

Officials in Iowa said that drivers need to adjust to winter driving routines which include changes in the way that motorists operate vehicles. Though ice may not be unusual in the winter for this part of the country, it still presents serious dangers to even experienced drivers. That’s because icy roads make it difficult to maintain traction, resulting in a loss of control and ultimately in car accidents.

Experts say that during the winter months, drivers need to remember that speed limits should be seen only as representing what’s possible under the best conditions. Slowing down when roads are slick is one of the most important things drivers can do to increase their safety. Slowing down reduces the risk that your car will skid and drift out of control. Drivers also need to avoid tailgating, as the distance required to stop will increase dramatically on snowy or icy roads. Finally, keep your lights on and windshields clean, something that will ensure you maintain good visibility, a leading cause of many Iowa car accidents.

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 car accident lawyers at the Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm PLC today at (888) 278-1027 to schedule a free consultation.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Workers in Des Moines Injured After Train Hits Boom Lift Truck

Two construction workers in West Des Moines were injured earlier this week when they were knocked off their boom truck after it was hit by an oncoming freight train. The two men were working on the I-35 widening project near Grand Avenue at the time of the accident.

Authorities say that one man was wedged under a bridge and managed to hang on after the accident, only suffering minor injuries. Though he was safe, emergency responders say it took more than an hour to rescue the man given how delicate a process it can be to extract someone from such a dangerous situation. The other man was not as fortunate and was thrown nearly 200 feet from the boom and had to be hospitalized for his serious injuries.

Police officers say the accident happened on train tracks near I-35 around 1:20 p.m. The two men were employees of United Contractors, Inc. and were in the passenger bucket of the boom lift’s arm when an oncoming train hit it. Witnesses say that the boom lift was raised at the time so the workers could work on the new bridge at I-35. An Iowa Interstate Railroad train, which was coming from the west, struck the truck that was holding the boom lift, sending both men falling.

Officials with Iowa Interstate Railroad say they are investigating the accident and are trying to determine how the train could have struck the truck in the first place. Emergency responders are waiting to see whether the National Transportation Safety Board will become involved, something that happens if damages exceed a certain limit.

The accident is yet another clear indication of the dangers that exist when humans find themselves near railroad tracks. Though officials have not yet revealed whether the boom truck was properly placed prior to the crash, the case serves as an example of why it is crucial for workers to be especially cautious when near train tracks.

Even if the boom truck was not parked on the track itself, it’s quite possible that it could still have been clipped by the train. How’s that? According to rail industry experts, trains can extend as much as three feet outside the steel rail of the track with some tankers taking up even more space. That’s why when a person is around a railroad track it is important to leave a wide gap between yourself and the rail, realizing that the train is actually wider than the track it sits on. 

Source: Iowa workers get thrown from boom lift in accident,” by The Associated Press, published at
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