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Making the case for truck underride guards

When a Texas passenger vehicle crashes into the back or side of a huge 18-wheeler, the results can be catastrophic for its occupants. As reported by Forbes, because the bottom of the truck’s trailer is so high off the ground, the much smaller passenger vehicle often continues its forward motion after the initial impact, sliding underneath the trailer.

This, in turn, usually shears off the car’s hood, windshield and roof. The passenger vehicle’s occupants, especially those in the front seat, are at grave risk for death by decapitation.

Rear underride guards

Since the 1990s, the federal government has mandated that all high-riding trailers be equipped with a rear underride guard, defined as a secondary metal bumper hanging from the rear of the trailer. However, safety standards for these guards have never been updated, and many of today’s underride guards are insufficient to perform their intended purpose, that of preventing a car from sliding under the trailer in a car-truck crash. Rather than stopping the car’s forward movement, many guards buckle on impact and/or break off entirely.

Side underride guards

Side underride guard mandates have never been put into place despite Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests proving that such guards can greatly reduce the number of injuries and deaths suffered by passenger vehicle occupants in a side car-truck crash. CNN reports that the initial IIHS test in 2012 showed that a side underride guard can reduce the risk of injury by upwards of 90 percent in these types of accidents.

IIHS data also shows that in 2015, 1,542 people died in car-truck crashes. Of these, 301 deaths occurred in side crashes and 292 occurred in rear crashes. The IIHS estimates that approximately half of the total deaths were the result of the passenger vehicle sliding underneath the truck’s trailer.

It would seem obvious that both rear and side underride guards should be federally mandated. In addition, the rear guard standards should be updated and strengthened. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, both Congress and the Department of Transportation have failed to take this much-needed action.

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