A recent article written by an Atlanta reporter uncovered some alarming problems with a common and crucial safety feature on the millions of tractor-trailers that crisscross the nation’s roadways. The article noted that underride guards which are meant to keep cars from becoming wedged under the back of a semi are poorly designed and frequently have other flaws that prevent them from working as they should.
The underride guards are metal grills that are attached by bolts to the back end of semi trucks. The guards exist to ensure that passenger vehicles, with their much lower profiles, do not slide underneath a tractor-trailer during a rear-end collision. The reason this is so important to avoid is because such an accident causes the force of the impact to be absorbed by the front row passengers, rather than the front-end crash zone, which is specifically designed to cushion the blow in car accidents. When a car underrides a semi it dramatically increases the probability of death.
One reason for the trouble, according to experts, is that many popular underride guards are poorly designed. The last time rules regarding the manufacture of the guards were changed was in 1998 and passenger vehicles have become much lower to the ground since then, meaning current guards are often not able to function properly.
Another problem is the general flimsiness of the underride guards. Studies done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the federal government’s minimum strength and dimension requirements for underride guards are inadequate. The IIHS says that many guards are so poorly designed that cars going as slow as 35 miles per hour could cause the guards to fail. Despite the results of the study, the NHTSA has failed to impose tougher standards, something that is resulting in hundreds of deaths every year.
Beyond design flaws, another issue that impacts the reliability of underride guards is poor maintenance on the part of truck drivers and trucking companies. A simple ride around the area’s interstates reveals the disrepair that some underride guards are in, with some guards visibly rusted, bent or even broken.
In 2011, the IIHS said that 260 of 2,241 passenger vehicle occupants killed in large truck crashes died in underride accidents. In Georgia, at least six drivers have died in similar underride accidents in only the last two years. The hope is that federal regulators impose tougher guidelines on underride guards, a small step which could save potentially hundreds of lives each year.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident or truck wreck because of the carelessness of another driver, call the personal injury attorneys at Pope McGlamry P.C. today to schedule a free consultation.