Most people accept that there’s some risk involved with getting into a motor vehicle, either as a passenger or a driver. A good number of people on the road take steps to reduce their risk of a collision and the potential injuries that could come with one. Sometimes, unfortunately, people who could take steps to save lives and reduce accident rates choose not to, often for very selfish reasons.
Drivers know that commercial trucks can pose a major risk. A lot of different factors could contribute to a serious commercial vehicle crash, including poor maintenance of the truck, driver exhaustion, speeding to make a deadline and the maneuvering limits of the truck. One risk factor that is often overlooked is the height of the trailers on commercial trucks.
Underride accidents happen far too frequently
When a smaller passenger vehicle ends up sliding under a massive commercial truck, that’s called an underride crash. These collisions often result in the complete destruction of the smaller vehicle. The top of the vehicle can end up sheered off. Sometimes, the whole car ends up crushed under one of the axles of the bigger vehicle.
There are two main kinds of underride collisions, side and rear. Rear underrides happen when a smaller vehicle read-ends a commercial truck. Side underride collisions happen when a car ends up sliding under the side of the elevated trailer on the truck. In 2015, roughly 600 people died of rear and side underride collisions. Given that most of these fatalities are preventable with adequate equipment, even a few a year is too many.
Guards exist to protect passenger vehicles from these crashes
There are already specialized guards that can prevent the vast majority of underride collisions. Currently, under federal law, all commercial trucks must have a rear underride guard. Those are the boxy metal frames attached to the rear of the trailer. These should stop a vehicle from going under the trailer or tires, preventing serious injuries and death. Sadly, in order to save money, many trucking companies install the cheapest versions, instead of the most effective ones.
Even worse, most trucking companies and professional truck drivers completely forego installing side underride guards. These look like metal skirting, which extends down from the sides of the trailer on the truck. Generally speaking, you will see these guards on trucks that cross the border into Canada, where they are required. You are less likely to see them on local and regional vehicles.
When a truck owner or company chooses to put profit over human safety, other people on the road end up paying the price. Given that most people in the industry know the risks that these guards reduce, underride collisions that occur without an adequate guard in place were probably preventable.