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Sideguards reduce truck fatalities

Relatively unsophisticated devices can decrease the severity of trucking accidents in Nevada. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety recently tested an aftermarket device that blocked a midsize passenger vehicle from sliding beneath a truck trailer in a 40 mph test in August.

These crashes, known as truck underride accidents, are deadly. There were 1,542 passenger car occupants killed in collisions with tractor-trailers in 2015. Of these accidents, 301 involved truck underride accidents, while 292 involved rear-end collisions.

A 2009 Chevrolet Malibu crashed into the center of a 53-foot-long trailer at 40 mph in this test. The truck's side guard bent. However, the car was blocked from traveling underneath the trailer. The car's airbags and safety belt also restrained the test dummy driver. Testing showed that there was a low likelihood that a person would have suffered injuries in this accident.

An earlier successful test was performed where the car was traveling at 35 mph. The second successful test conducted at 40 mph is important because a collision at this higher speed has 30 times more energy.

In a second test performed at 35 mph without a sideguard, the Malibu got wedged under the trailer and part of its roof was ripped off. In a real accident, a driver probably would not survive that crash.

Sideguards that prevent vehicle crashes are relatively new. However, lighter weight devices are being used to protect bicyclists and pedestrians. Boston, New York and Seattle now require the installation of these devices on municipally owned or contracted trucks.

Solutions to side underride accidents, according to one manufacturer of these devices, are possible. More widespread use of similar devices, along with ongoing improvements to rear underride guards on trucks, could help reduce fatalities in large truck collisions.

Improving rearguards may be easier. Guards that meet current federal standards are not always effective in preventing underride. These devices are particularly less successful when a smaller vehicle collides with the rear of a truck off-center. IIHS tests of a midsize car into the rear of a tractor-trailer were successful when performed in various configurations.

A serious or fatal accident could be caused by reckless or negligent driving or where a truck owner utilizes insufficient safety measures. Accident victims or their families should seek legal assistance to help them pursue their right to compensation.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, "Side guard on semitrailer prevents underride in 40 mph test," Aug. 29, 2017

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