Semis and Side Underride AccidentsBy Stewart J. Guss on November 27th, 2017
When 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 recently involved in an Underride Roundtable, which gathered safety advocates, industry leaders, researchers, and government officials to grapple with issues related to side underride guards and the safety of passenger vehicles.
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 have lost a loved one to a side underride accident, you need a skilled Houston truck accident lawyer. The legal team at the firm of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, is here to help.
Some Underride History
The need for underride protections for commercial trucks is not new. Jayne Mansfield, the well-remembered blond bombshell of Hollywood fame, was killed decades ago in a backend underride accident with a semi-truck that set off the national safety outcry for rear and side protections on commercial big rigs. Although it took decades, rear guards—also known as Mansfield bars—are now required equipment. Despite providing increased protections and having the potential to save lives, side underride guards are not yet required.
The Truck Trailer Manufacturing Association, the trucking industry’s lobbying association, strongly opposes side under ride protections because of:
- The additional expense of these guards
- 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
Many in favor of side underride guards argue that this reasoning suggests that the cost in lives isn’t great enough to warrant additional expenses for trucking companies. Despite the Truck Trailer Manufacturing Association’s protests, events like the Underride Roundtable continue to advance the science and safety of the protections afforded by side underride guards.
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 no such statutes for side underride guards. Nevertheless, three cities—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.
The recent underride roundtable highlights the seriousness of the side underride issue and demonstrates that diverse entities are seriously committed to advancing the cause of the side underride guard. The Truck Safety Coalition, for example, established an Underride Initiative, advocating for a federal requirement that “all trucks and trailers…be equipped with energy-absorbing rear, side, and front underride guards to protect car occupants from underride crashes.”
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. Until establishing this requirement, safety organizations like the Truck Safety Coalition will continue to advocate for them.
Contact an Experienced Houston Truck Accident Lawyer Today
If you or someone you care about was injured in a semi accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you know how devastating that is. You need a skilled Houston personal injury lawyer with extensive experience in semi-truck collisions.
At Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at law, we’ve been in the business for more than 20 years, and we understand the complicated legal recovery process for big rig collisions. We will scrutinize the evidence in your case, advocate for your most favorable settlement with the insurance company, and if necessary, file a lawsuit on your behalf. To schedule a free case evaluation with the attorneys of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, call today at 800-898-4877 or send us an email through our online contact form. Remember—you pay us nothing up front when we take your case, and you pay us nothing unless and until we’ve won your recovery.