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The case for strong truck underride guards

Alaska drivers are used to sharing the roads with huge trucks in all types of weather, much of it considerably less than ideal. They also know that should the unthinkable happen and their passenger vehicle crashes into the back or side of one of these behemoths, they are the ones most at risk for serious injury and/or death.

As reported by Forbes, when a car rear-ends or t-bones an 18-wheeler, it does not necessarily stop at the moment of impact. Instead, it often keeps going, sliding underneath the high-riding trailer before ultimately coming to a stop. In the vast majority of these situations, the car’s roof, windshield and hood are sheared off and the passenger vehicle’s occupants, particularly the driver and front seat passenger, are decapitated.

Underride guards

A truck underride guard is an ancillary metal bumper that hangs down from the back and/or side of a trailer. In theory, this extra bumper stops, or at least substantially reduces the likelihood of, the car sliding underneath the trailer. Federal regulations have required rear underride guards since the 1990s, but to date side underride guards have not been mandated.

As reported by CNN, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been conducting underride guard safety tests since 2012. The initial study showed that strong side underride guards can reduce the risk of injury by up to 90 percent. IIHS data shows that in 2015, car-truck crashes resulted in 1,542 deaths. Of these, 301 involved side crashes and 292 involved rear-end crashes. It is unknown how many of the fatalities resulted from underrides, but the IIHS estimates that at least half of them did.

Underride guard safety standards

While underride guards have been proven to dramatically reduce injuries and deaths in car-truck crashes, the sad truth is that most of today’s guards do not do so. Rather, they buckle or break off entirely when hit by a passenger vehicle. Rear underride guard safety standards have never been updated since the federal mandate went into effect over 20 years ago. Worse yet, with no side underride guard mandate in place, there are no safety standards for these types of guards.

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