Side Underride Guards and the Safety of Passenger VehiclesWhen you get behind the wheel of your car, you share the road with speeding metal behemoths, semi-trucks. These big rigs pose self-evident dangers, but safety mechanisms can help make commercial trucks less dangerous to other vehicles on the road. In fact, the Truck Safety Coalition was involved in an Underride Roundtable, which gathered safety advocates, industry leaders, researchers, and government officials to grapple with issues related to semis and side underride accidents and the impact underride guards could have on the safety of passenger vehicles. The roundtable has led to some significant progress in mandating these life-saving underride guards for semis and tractor-trailers in the U.S.
Side Underride Accidents
A side underride accident involves a car that crashes headlong into the side of a tractor-trailer and then continues to plow farther into the massive vehicle’s underside. Because cars that ride under semi-trucks bypass their safety protections—the crumple zone (the protection afforded by the car’s hood crumpling first) and the airbag deployment sensors—and shear off their tops, these accidents are particularly horrific.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that about half of all fatal accidents between big rigs and passenger vehicles involve underrides. Furthermore, they conclude that durable side underride guards could potentially reduce the risk of fatal and serious injuries by about 75 percent for the occupants of passenger vehicles involved in side underride accidents.
Side underride accidents are extremely dangerous. If you were injured in or lost a loved one to a side underride accident, you need a skilled Houston truck accident lawyer to help you navigate the truck accident claims process and get you the maximum compensation you deserve. The legal team at the firm of Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers, is here to help.
Some Underride History
The Trucking Lobby Opposition
The Truck Trailer Manufacturing Association, the trucking industry’s lobbying association, strongly opposes side underride protections for several reasons, including:
- The additional expense of these guards. Installing side underride guards on a single trailer, including hardware costs and installation labor, is estimated to be about $3,500.
- The inherent technological complications of designing side underride guards that don’t diminish the physical integrity or strength of the trucks.
- The dangerous additional weight that these guards would add to semi-trucks. It is estimated that the guards would add an additional 450 to 800 pounds to each semi, which would also increase fuel costs.
Tractor Trailers and No Zones
The need to install side underride guards on commercial trucks comes into even sharper focus when you consider the vast blind spots with which truckers struggle when they drive. Truck drivers ride high above the roadways, which can give the appearance of providing a great vantage point—but one that’s in fact riddled with blind spots:
- Directly behind the trailer of the truck
- Directly in front of the truck’s cab
- On both sides of the body of the truck
The blind spots on the sides of a semi-truck are particularly dangerous—the trucker can’t see your vehicle there. The right side of an 18-wheeler is its largest no zone of all. Side underride guards could help make these blind spots less treacherous.
As ever more semis take to the road, consider the dangers they pose when you share those roads. Give these giants plenty of space to maneuver safely, and stay out of their no zones.
Cities Get Involved
While federal laws mandate rear underride guards, there are currently no such statutes for side underride guards. Nevertheless, some cities, such as New York, Boston, and Seattle, have taken it upon themselves to require all city-owned and city-contracted trucks to join their Vision Zero initiatives and add side underride guards.
Vision Zero is a traffic safety strategy that began in Sweden in the 1990s and is catching on in some large American cities. The stated purpose is "to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all." This is a lofty goal indeed, but a mandate for the requirement of side underride guards would symbolize a step toward the accomplishment of this goal.
Advocating for Safer Semis
Side underride accidents are serious threats to drivers on our roads. There is something, however, that the U.S. government can do to mitigate this threat—require that all semi-trucks have side underride guards. While the federal government is closer than ever before to requiring these life-saving guards on all trucks and trailers, until this rule is required, safety organizations like the Truck Safety Coalition will continue to advocate for them.