Underride accidents account for twenty-five percent of all fatal truck accidents. California leads the country in the number of all underride deaths with 426 recorded between 1993 and 2015. Death by underride is drastically undercounted, as some crash report forms do no contain a check box for underrides.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested safeguards called AngelWings that prevent passenger cars from sliding beneath the side of a tractor-trailer or large truck. Side underride crashes generally occur when a tractor-trailer jackknifes, causing vehicles behind to crash into the side. Very often airbags fail to deploy because of the height of the trailer. Roofs can get sheared off and passengers may receive severe head injuries, even decapitation. In other instances the rear wheels of the trailer may ride over the vehicle crushing it.
The IIHS car and truck accident test showed that AngelWings, produced by the AirFlow Deflector Company, were extremely effective at preventing side underride and also initiated air bag deployment. At present they are the only commercially available side guards available for commercial tractor-trailers. AngelWings have been on the market for over a year but are not required equipment in the US.
“Our tests and research show that side underride guards have the potential to save lives,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. “We think a mandate for side underride guards on large trucks has merit, especially as crash deaths continue to rise on our roads.”
Because they are not required, side guards are not being used on the majority of tractor-trailers, as few commercial truck operators are willing to absorb the $4000 cost per truck along with the added weight. That sentiment may be compelled to change soon.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has drafted the Stop Underrides! Act of 2017. She is working with Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN), who will be drafting a House Companion Measure. They are together seeking Republican co-leads for this life saving legislation, which is long overdue.
Congressional office staff gathered on October 12, 2017 to hear presentations delivered by five experts on the topic of truck underride, to demonstrate the need for the Stop Underrides! bill. A follow-up question and answer period addressed staff concerns regarding the problems and solutions of deadly, yet preventable underride crashes.
The prevention of truck underride tragedies is making progress, but there is still much ground to gain. Comprehensive underride protection on every truck on U.S. roads and highways is critical to saving lives on a daily basis. Without mandatory underride protection two people could perish every day in the U.S., which equates to 600 lives lost annually. In the European Union, Brazil and several other countries, side underride protection is mandatory on all trucks, and has resulted in countless lives being saved.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommended side underride guards on commercial trucks, but inclinations in the Trump Administration regarding truck safety requirements, make a regulation mandating the devices unlikely. One bright spot is that the number of underride crashes will likely be reduced by the emergence of crash avoidance technologies, which become standard on all vehicles in 2022.
Vititoe Law Group
Underride crashes often result in devastating injuries or death. High medical bills and extended periods of rehabilitation often occur. If you or someone you love have suffered serious injuries or a family member was killed in an accident with a commercial vehicle, please reach out to Vititoe Law Group at 818-851-1886 for a free and friendly consultation, or contact us online.