Underride accidents are among the most deadly of all truck accidents which occur in the United States. There are regulations requiring the use of underride guards to try to prevent these serious and often fatal truck crashes. The regulations, unfortunately, are inadequate and are not making a substantial difference in preventing tragedy. There could, however, be new regulations on the horizon which hopefully will help to reduce underride risks.
New Rules Aim to Prevent Underride Truck Accidents
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a issued Notice of Proposed Rule Making. In December of 2015, the NHSTA put forth this notice of intent to make a rule because the Administration is trying to improve the requirements applicable to underride crash prevention.
There are currently mandates that most tractor trailers and semi-trucks have bars hanging down in the back to prevent underride accidents by stopping cars from going under trucks. Unfortunately, the bars are not working as well as they should. The NHTSA wants to modify Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs) to create tough new rules in FMVSS No. 223 and 224. The rules would change requirements for rear impact guards and rear impact protection in trailers and semitrailers.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has been urging NHTSA to change rules for rear guards to prevent underride accidents for around a decade. IIHS has warned the current requirements are not good enough. Underride accidents are still happening far too often, despite the protections in place. In fact, an estimated 423 annual fatalities and 5,000 annual injuries happen in truck crashes when an underride occurs. Finally, the NHTSA has acted - although it will still take some time before the proposed rule for underride guards can actually move through the full process necessary to become a regulation.
Hopefully, the new underride rule will make a difference. IIHS has reported on studies with troubling findings about underride truck accidents. In one study looking at 1,000 truck collisions, only 22 percent total of all of the accidents didn't involve at least some degree of underride occurring. Of 28 deadly accidents included in the study of 1,000 collisions, 23 involved severe underride.
When underride accidents happen, the undercarriage of the truck intrudes into the safety care of the passenger vehicle. Passengers can sustain traumatic brain injury and other lasting damage as the vehicle they are in is intruded on when the upper part of the passenger's occupant compartment is crushed. If new underride rules stop cars from getting underneath trucks, this should no longer occur and hundreds of lives can be saved each year. Truck manufacturers and trucking companies will be expected to comply with the new rule, if it passes, so trucks on the roads should no longer be quite the same potential threat to motorists that they currently are.