Underride crashes almost always result in serious, life changing injuries. Many of these accidents cause permanent disability and even death. Fortunately, many of the injuries and fatalities that occur due to these types of crashes can often be prevented. In recent years, safety advocates, trucking companies, large truck manufacturers and lawmakers have evaluated the facts surrounding underride crashes and an effective solution may be implemented in the near future.
Underride Crashes Take Their Toll
According to the United States Department of Transportation, more than 4,000 victims have lost their lives to collisions that involved underrides between 1994 and 2014. About 1,530 of those deadly accidents involved side underrides. 228 victims died in 2014 alone. These types of crashes represent approximately one-fourth of all large truck crash fatalities in the United States. Disturbingly, the actual death toll is likely significantly higher, but gaps in federal data prevent accurate numbers.
Underride Collisions Explained
When an underride collision occurs, a passenger vehicle crashes into the side or rear of a large truck, sliding underneath a straight truck or the trailer of a combination truck. In many cases, the roof of the passenger vehicle is sheered off or crushed, seriously injuring or killing the occupants inside. When the passenger vehicle is lucky, it might strike an area near one of the axles of the truck which often prevents the vehicle from running completely under the trailer. Without underride guards, however, only about 28 percent (less than 15 feet) of an average 53-foot trailer’s length is protected.
Are Underride Guards an Effective Solution?
Solutions to reduce the number of these tragic crash injuries and deaths have been debated by safety regulators for years. While well-built side guards that meet high standards have been shown to be very effective, the use of adequate guards has not yet been mandated in the U.S. And even though some large trucks are already equipped with these life-saving tools, many guards are not manufactured to withstand the impact of a high-speed or spinning passenger vehicle.
A side underride guard can offer protection for about 62 percent of a trailer’s length. But according to engineer Andrew Kiefer, side protection may not be enough. He recently invented an innovative underride guard that can be retrofitted to large trucks to protect both the side and rear of the trailer.