The Need for Improved Underride Guard Regulations

Posted on April 24, 2012 at 4:29pm by

Underride collisions are an especially dangerous type of truck accident. Each year in the United States, underride collisions kill approximately 423 people and injure approximately 5,000 others, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). An underride collision involves a passenger vehicle fully or partially passing under a tractor-trailer. The passenger vehicle can be crushed or have its roof sheared off, which poses a serious threat to all occupants in the vehicle, including the risk of decapitation. Victims of underride collisions may be entitled to financial compensation for their injuries or for their loved one’s wrongful death and can learn about their legal rights from an experienced Atlantic City injury attorney.

Underride Guards

Underride guards, long pieces of steel attached to the rear, front and/or side of a large truck, are intended to prevent underride from occurring in the event a truck and passenger vehicle collide. The U.S. currently lacks regulations requiring front or side underride guards, though it does have regulations in place for rear guards. The European Union, on the other hand, began requiring front underride guards in 2003 and has required side guards since 1989.

Although the U.S. does have rear underride guard regulations in place, studies have shown them to be lacking. Simulated crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) supported an earlier study that revealed that rear underride guards often fail, even at speeds as low as 35 miles per hour. As IIHS President Adrian Lund explains: “Hitting the back of a large truck is a game changer. You might be riding in a vehicle that earns top marks in frontal crash tests, but if the truck’s underride guard fails — or isn’t there at all — your chances of walking away from even a relatively low-speed crash aren’t good.”

The IIHS Calls for Improved Underride Guard Regulations

Last year, the IIHS petitioned the NHTSA to improve existing underride guard regulations. After studying underride collisions for more than 30 years, the IIHS believes the NHTSA should:

  • Require stronger underride guards that will remain in place during a crash
  • Require that more large trucks be equipped with underride guards by reducing truck and trailer exemptions
  • Require underride guard systems to be tested as a whole and on the trailer rather than allowing individual components to be tested separately and apart from the trailer
  • Investigate whether rear guards can be lowered to compensate for smaller vehicles

Lund says that “absent regulation, there’s little incentive for manufacturers to improve underride countermeasures.” As the IIHS continues its push for better underride guard regulations in the U.S., victims of this dangerous type of truck accident can contact a qualified Atlantic City injury lawyer to ensure their legal rights are protected.