You may have seen those heavy goal-post bars hanging upside down from the back of a semi-trailer. These strange structures are called underride guards and they are designed to prevent smaller vehicles from sliding underneath the back of a semi-trailer in a rear-end collision. As it is far more likely for a passenger in a car to be injured in a crash than a truck driver, these safety measures are meant to help reduce fatalities when a trailer crashes through a vehicle’s front windshield.
However, research suggests that these guards lack the strength and design necessary to keep following drivers safe. In a recent study performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, researchers examined crash data from two consecutive years to determine the effectiveness of U.S.-approved underride guards at a variety of speeds—and whether these guards were strong enough to prevent fatal accidents. The results of their examination produced both good and bad news for all road users:
- Guards help. In the study of 1,000 real-world crashes, 78 percent of all accidents involved some degree of underride (car becoming wedged beneath the trailer). Severe underride damage was present in nearly all cases where a driver or passenger in the following vehicle died, usually with the trailer entering the vehicle’s safety cage and crushing the occupant.
- Guards often fail. The tests showed that guards may break, bend, or otherwise fail even at relatively low speeds. One underride guard sheared its attachment bolts and broke after a car struck it traveling at just 35 mph. In three separate crash tests, the heads of the car’s testing dummies collided with the car's hood or the oncoming trailer, making decapitation likely for underride victims.
- Crash ratings don’t apply. Even vehicles that had earned a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) were likely to buckle in an underride crash—even if the car had earned high marks in other frontal crash tests.
Smaller Vehicles Are At Risk When a Semi-Truck Driver Slams on the Brakes
In cases where a passenger vehicle collides with a semi-truck, a trucker may claim he was not at fault for the accident since he was the one who was struck. However, a trucker can still be held liable if your car collided with the trailer and he had been speeding, tailgating, or otherwise driving recklessly before the crash. Fill out the quick contact form on this page to speak with an attorney at Wayne Wright LLP about your case. Your contact with us is free, and you don’t owe us anything unless we recover for you.