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What is an Underride Guard, and Why Should You Care?

Underride Guards on Tractor Trailers save lives. 

Many of us see tractor trailer trucks on the road every day. Have you noticed the important safety additions toTractor Trailer with Underride Guard - Altizer Law PC these trucks? What is an underride guard? Do you know? Why should you care? Do they really help to protect drivers?

A truck underride guard is an attachment of steel bars to the back or the side of a tractor trailer (or semi) intended to prevent a car or small pickup truck from driving under the truck in the event of a collision. In any collision of a car and a tractor trailer truck there is some risk of an “underride” (the passenger vehicle continuing its momentum and riding under the truck). Crashes involving underride cause extreme damage to the passenger compartment of a car or small truck. More important, underride crashes cause severe harm – most often, death – to those riding in the smaller vehicle.

Federal law requires that all tractor trailers be equipped with rear underride guards. Side guards are not required at this time. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in 2015 there were 1,542 deaths were associated with passenger vehicle collisions with tractor trailer trucks. Of those crashes, 301 involved the side of the truck and 292 involved the rear.

The IIHS tests and makes recommendations for vehicle improvements that will make the roads safer for all drivers. Recent tests of rear underride guards drove a midsize car into the rear of a parked trailer at 35 mph. The test was conducted with the car crashing into the center of the truck’s rear, with half of the car’s width overlapping the rear of the truck, and with 30 percent of the car overlapping the rear of the truck. The eight leading brands were tested, with 6 passing the test in all three configurations and two failing the test of the 30 percent overlap.

In a press release dated August 29, 2017, the IIHS reported on tests of a side underride guard. This device, which is attached to the tractor trailer truck after it has been built. It was tested by driving a midsize car into the side of a truck at 40 mph. The result was that the side underride guard bent, but did not underride the truck. The test also demonstrated that the car’s airbags and seat belts deployed correctly and protected the crash test dummy.

Every driver knows that any crash with a tractor trailer truck will be serious and that serious harm to the passengers in the car will often result. By continuing to test and improve rear and side underride guards for trucks, many lives may be saved. For those drivers who frequently travel our highways and Interstate highways, these safety improvements made through the work of the IIHS should be encouraging.

There is no substitute for careful driving and maintaining one’s driving skills. Yet, steps like underride guards for trucks will also help to prevent death and other very serious injuries due to underride. Knowing what an underride guard is and how it is important to you should be somewhat reassuring. More important and reassuring, the IIHS is working to improve safety for all vehicles on our roadways.

Altizer Law, P.C., has been helping clients and families of those injured or killed in crashes with tractor trailer trucks for more than 25 years. We fight aggressively for each client to ensure that justice is done and that the maximum fair compensation is won on their his or her behalf. If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash with a tractor trailer on Virginia’s highways, call Bettina and Terri.