Action is underway to reduce the severity of one of the most lethal types of truck accidents on the road—underride crashes.
After years of discussion and study by the federal government, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced that it's updating two Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to prevent fatal rear truck underride crashes. While safety improvements are good news, some advocates say the regs are weak and need to go further to save lives.
Safety advocates say rear & side underride guards are necessary.
The new safety measures would require rear impact guards on tractor-trailers to provide sufficient strength and energy absorption to protect occupants of compact and subcompact passenger cars impacting the rear of trailers at 35 mph.
An underride accident happens when a smaller vehicle rear-ends an 18-wheeler and gets wedged underneath the trailer or cargo transportation unit. As a result, the smaller vehicle can slide under the truck from the hood and into or past the car's cab. Often, the cab is partially or sheered off. As a result, occupants in the smaller vehicle rarely survive. Tragically, underride accidents are usually caused by trucker and trucking company negligence.
Truck underride accidents in Indiana
Hundreds of people die every year in underride truck accidents, according to Stop Underrides, a traffic safety group. Advocates estimate that 80 to 90 percent of underride accidents are fatal. In Indiana, deadly underride accidents have been recorded in the area of:
- I-69 in Fort Wayne
- I-65, I-90, and I-80 junction in northern Indiana
- I-65 south of Indianapolis
- I-74 near the Ohio border
- US-31 in the greater South Bend area
To help prevent fatal underride accidents, many trucking companies have been outfitting fleets with underride guards.
What is an underride guard?
In general, an underride guard is a bar that goes on the back of a semi-truck trailer, tractor-trailer, big rig, or another type of large commercial truck. The bar stops smaller vehicles sliding underneath a semi-truck at the car's hood—before the truck trailer reaches the cab and occupants.
The NHTSA's improved underride protection requirements are not set in stone yet.
Once the regulation is published in the Federal Register, there will be a 45-day period for petitions to reconsider the final rule. Furthermore, truck owners will be given about two years after publication to comply with the new law. Unfortunately, there is reason to be skeptical that the rule will be published. This is the administration's third attempt to nail down such safety improvements. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has been petitioning for improvements since at least 2011.
Not good enough?
While the improved safety measure is necessary, advocates say it does not go far enough. In addition to rear underride guard equipment, there should also be side underride guard standards. The IIHS slammed the new regulations.
"Success requires implementation of redundant safety interventions like better underride protection on trailers to ensure that a mistake on the roadway does not result in serious injury or death," IIHS President David Harkey said in a statement. However, the "updated rule does not go far enough to be meaningful," the IIHS says.
The safety group says that to reduce underride accidents, the NHTSA should require crash testing of guards when mounted on trailers, allow fewer exemptions for other kinds of trucks, and improve protection in offset crashes.
To recognize and promote IIHS's higher standard for responsible underride safety, the group created the ToughGuard award. To win this prize, trailers must have rear guards that prevent the underride of a midsize car in three test modes - full-width, 50 percent overlap, and 30 percent overlap. In each test, a midsize car travels at 35 mph toward the back of a parked semitrailer.
Contact an Indiana truck accident attorney.
If you were injured or a loved one died in a tractor-trailer accident, it's important to seek legal help as soon as possible so you can clearly understand your legal rights and options. You may be entitled to compensation for your losses, but the trucking company's insurance carrier and its team of attorneys will do everything in their power to limit liability and pay you as little money as possible. You need a proven fighter in your corner to even the odds and look out for your best interests.
At Boughter Sinak, LLC, we have the knowledge, experience, and resources to handle every aspect of your truck accident claim or lawsuit. Let us step in to deal with the trucking company, aggressively advocate for your best interests, and fight for the financial compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free case evaluation with an experienced Indiana truck accident attorney from our Fort Wayne or South Bend law offices. We have obtained millions in settlements and verdicts for our clients, and we handle cases throughout Indiana.