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What are underride guards and why are they crucial?

Have you ever noticed that extra bumper hanging off of the trailer of large trucks driving the Texas roads and freeways? That bumper is actually an underride guard and it is there to protect you in case of an accident.

Think about it. Unless your passenger vehicle of choice is a pickup, van or other large vehicle, you and your passengers ride at eye level with a semi’s wheels. If you crash into the back of the trailer, your own vehicle likely will continue forward and wind up sliding underneath it without an underride guard to stop it. If this happens, the roof and hood of your vehicle likely will shear off, leaving you and your passengers to die a horrible death by decapitation.

Rear underride guards

Federal law has mandated the installation of a rear underride guard on all high-riding trailers since the 1990s. Unfortunately, however, many of them today do not provide the protection to you that they were intended to. Why? Because Congress and the Department of Transportation have never updated those laws. Consequently, today’s rear underride guards are often unfit for their intended purpose. Instead of protecting you from sliding underneath the trailer, they buckle or even break loose from the impact of your crash.

Side underride guards

It probably will shock you to learn that neither Congress nor the DOT has ever mandated the use of side underride guards, even though studies throughout the years have more than demonstrated their value. For instance, tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety back in 2012 and reported by Forbes proved that side underride guards can reduce your risk of death in a side underride crash by as much as 90%.

Car-truck statistics

In 2015 alone, 1,542 motorists died on American streets and highways as the result of a car-truck crash according to the IIHS. Of these, 301 were side crashes and 292 were rear crashes. Given these grim statistics and the proven value of side underride guards, it is difficult to understand why Congress and the DOT have never mandated their installation on all high-riding trailers. It likewise is difficult to understand why they have not updated the required safety standards for rear underride guards.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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