Safety Advocates Seek Stronger Underride Guard Standards

Posted on Oct 12 , 2012
Underride accidents, which occur when a passenger vehicle hits the back of a truck and then slides underneath it, are among some of the deadliest accidents on the roads. One famous example of this kind of accident was when actress Jayne Mansfield was decapitated in the 1960s after her car hit the rear end of a tractor-trailer. Since that time, many safety precautions have been put into place, but, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), they're not enough to prevent underrides. The organization points out that nearly 500 people in passenger vehicles are killed annually when they hit the back of a truck, while another 5,000 are injured. Even when drivers are traveling at slow speeds, these kinds of 18 wheeler accidents can be devastating. "Cars' front-end structures are designed to manage a tremendous amount of crash energy in a way that minimizes injuries for their occupants," IIHS President Adrian Lund said in a statement. "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." In order to illustrate this, the IIHS conducted a series of car crash tests where passenger vehicles hit the rear of tractor trailers at different speeds. The organization found that even at slower speeds, the guards on the back of the trucks were not enough to prevent substantial underride damage to the passenger cars - the cars were only saved when they hit the middle portion of the truck's rear. "Damage to the cars in some of these tests was so devastating that it's hard to watch the footage without wincing," Lund added. "If these had been real-world crashes, there would be no survivors." As a result of these findings, the IIHS has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to strengthen the standards for underride guards on trucks. In a letter to the NHTSA, experts from the Institute explained that many accidents would be less devastating if underride guards were strong enough to stay in place during a crash.

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