Why Not Make Side Guard Rails Mandatory on Tractor Trailers?

Underride truck accidents are some of the most horrific on our roads. They happen when a smaller vehicle, particularly a sedan, collides with the rear or side of a large truck and gets stuck underneath it. The force of the collision can cause colossal damage to the vehicle, and cause fatalities and serious injuries to the occupants. One of the consequences of an underride collision is that the roof of the car could be peeled off like a sardine can lid, exposing the heads and bodies of the occupants to whatever is under the vehicle. The impact of the collision is often enough to cause serious injuries in any case. One way to prevent this is with side guard rails.

The truck driver whose vehicle has been underridden may not even notice that something has happened and the car can be dragged involuntarily down the road for hundreds of yards, compounding the injuries.

The danger of underride accidents is greater at night, especially if the truck is in a dimly lit area, close to or crossing an intersection, entering or exiting a side turning, has faulty lights at the rear, or is not fitted with lights on the side.

It can be particularly hard to judge the size and shape of a dimly lit or unlit tractor-trailer and that’s when vehicles can more easily crash into the back of a large truck or slide under the truck between the axles at the side.

Federal law now makes it compulsory for large trucks to have rear underride protection in the form of a guard rail. However, the laws don’t extend to side guard rails. Evidence exists that suggests that where side guard rails are fitted, they may help to save the life of any occupants of a smaller vehicle that hits a truck from the side.

In one experiment carried out by the Institute for Highway Safety, a car carrying a dummy was deliberately crashed into the side of a tractor-trailer at a speed of 30 mph. The vehicle crumpled in front, but the “dummy” was saved because of the protective effects of the test vehicle’s airbag and safety belt. When the experiment was repeated without side guard rails, a similar car had its roof ripped off. The Institute used a new side guard rail called “AngelWing” made of steel covered in fiberglass for the series of tests it completed.

The trucking industry doesn’t want side guards

The American Trucking Association (AMA) has been campaigning for better collision prevention features rather than side guards. An AMA spokesperson, Sean McNally, said that fitting side guards to most tractor-trailers would only help to reduce crash effects rather than prevent them. McNally also said that the proposed side guards cannot be fitted without using stronger trailers. He says that the adaptation needed for the trailers might actually weaken them and add a further safety issue. The AMA is proposing a raft of technological innovations including automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning systems, and electronic logging devices.

Who’s liable in a side underride or rear underride accident?

If a car ends up under the chassis of a truck, there are various reasons why it could happen. Trucking companies claim that because of the size of their tucks, there is no excuse for other vehicles crashing into them, but that doesn’t explain all underride accidents.

Many accidents of this type happen at night, when the side of the truck may be hard to see, there may be no side lights fitted, or there are faulty lights. A truck may exit from a side turning or suddenly brake to enter a side turning at night and may be hard to see.

Liability may be a difficult issue when a rear underride or side underride accident occurs. The results of a crash investigation will be needed to determine the degree of liability of the truck driver or the truck company. In some cases, the driver who crashed under the truck may also be partly to blame. Any personal injury compensation may depend on the laws of the particular state for contributory negligence.

A Jackson Mississippi truck accident lawyer can help you win a legitimate underride claim

If you have survived an underride accident or you are a close family member of someone who has died in an underride crash, you may be entitled to claim personal injury compensation or wrongful death compensation. Truck companies and their insurers are not likely to admit liability freely and your best option is to contact the Diaz Law Firm in Jackson Mississippi to see if you have a chance of making a successful claim. Ring 601-607-3456 to arrange a free consultation.