According to alarming statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA), more than 423 people in passenger vehicles die each year when their vehicle strikes the back of a large truck, leaving another 5,000 injured. Safety standards do exist to prevent “underride accidents,” which are defined as crashes involving a car traveling and getting pinned under a large truck. Although many modern semitrailers adequately prevent vehicles from sliding underneath them, new studies demonstrate that not all of these protections are working.

Current Rear Impact Guards Do Not Provide Adequate Protection

Commercial trucks are generally required to have rear impact guards. The guards are fastened to the backs, as well as sometimes the sides, of semi trucks and other large vehicles in an effort to prevent cars from sliding under the vehicle. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducted a study testing the effectiveness of rear impact guards, and the results were alarming. The IIHS study utilized several Chevy Malibu cars which were all sent at 35 miles per hour into the back of parked trucks. The rear impact guards on the trucks, which all met United States safety standards, did not prevent the car from sliding underneath. The car, in fact, easily slid under the trailers, crushing the test dummies inside. Had the vehicles held real people, they would not have survived, according to the IIHS.

This test and several others like it demonstrates the ineffectiveness of current rear impact guards. These guards that are intended to save lives in theory are in actuality failing at even relatively low rates of speed. The IIHS, along with the NHTSA, both take the position that standards must be strengthened so that underride accidents do not result in the current high rates of death and injury.

In Canada, rear impact guards are estimated to be 75 percent stronger than those accepted by our nation. When the same test using the Chevy Malibus was conducted on Canadian guards, the guards held up as the vehicles collided into them, thus preventing injury and death to the hypothetical passengers.

Underride Accident Prevention

Underride accidents can occur in the event of a rear-end or side collision between a car and a semi truck or other large commercial vehicle. Side collisions commonly occur when a truck is backing out of a parking lot or driveway or into a heavily trafficked street where drivers may not see the truck until it is too late. Rear accidents normally occur when the truck comes to a sudden stop, leaving the car with little time to stop.

If you are injured in an underride accident, consult with a licensed truck accident attorney as soon as possible who can evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case as well as advise you on what actions are necessary to protect your legal rights.