Unfortunately, every year thousands of people are injured and sadly killed in highway traffic accidents. There is a type of highway accident that can have devastating consequences — it's been highlighted this week by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS).
It indicated in its report released this Tuesday, as a result of its latest crash test studies involving tractor-trailers and cars, that underride guards on semis can fail in relatively low speed crashes. Underride guards are designed to protect the rear of tractor-trailers so when a car hits a semi from behind it does not go under the truck.
The problem with an underride guard failing to stand up to a rear end impact is that the upper part of the passenger vehicle, which surrounds the occupants of the car, typically crashes under the large truck, many times at high rates of speed and with great force. The result of a car crashing under a tractor trailer can be deadly and may even result in decapitation.
As a result of this new study, the IIHS is asking the federal government to enact stricter standards covering underride guards on tractor-trailers. The National Highway Safety Administration is currently reviewing its crash test standards between small cars and large trucks but does not expect to complete that review until 2012. If acted upon by the federal government it would be only the second time in almost six decades that new regulations would be implemented regarding underride guards.
People should not get a false sense of security because their car is highly rated in front end crash tests or because the car is designed to absorb a tremendous amount of crash energy. If the front end of your vehicle slides underneath of a tractor-trailer then the crash test results change considerably due to the fact that the windshield and roof of your vehicle could take the brunt of the impact.
In order to minimize your risk for this type of a potentially lethal accident you should always leave enough room between your car and a tractor-trailer in front of you. Be especially mindful of obtaining a sight line in front of the truck, if possible, so you will see potential hazards in front of the truck so you can anticipate dangers. By recognizing this great potential risk and driving more defensively, especially when traveling behind tractor-trailers, you can minimize the risk of a serious or even deadly accident for you and your passengers.