When a motorist is involved in a highway accident involving a tractor-trailer in DuPage County, there is a high likelihood of serious or fatal injuries. As a fact sheet from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) explains, large trucks often weigh between 20 and 30 times as much as a passenger vehicle, and they have a greater ground clearance than smaller vehicles. As such, collisions between 18-wheelers and passenger cars are often deadly.
Federal law currently requires large trucks to have rear underride guards to prevent a passenger car from going underneath the truck in the event of a crash. However, these guards are not always enough to prevent serious and fatal injuries.
There may be a new solution to preventing serious and fatal injuries in trucking accidents: side guard rails. According to a recent article in U.S. News & World Report, while rear underride guards may be insufficient when it comes to reducing the risk of a deadly crash, adding a requirement of side guard rails might actually serve such a purpose.
Side Guard Rails May Prevent Deadly Trucking Accidents
As the article underscores, collisions involving big rigs and smaller passenger vehicles can be devastating. Indeed, in 2015 alone, 301 occupants in passenger vehicles sustained fatal injuries after colliding with the side of a tractor-trailer.
The IIHS suggests that large trucks with side guard rails mounted between the tires are less likely than other large trucks to be involved in fatal collisions. To be sure, the IIHS estimates that “side guards could prevent hundreds of traffic deaths per year in the U.S. alone.”
The current type of side guard rail that has been tested is made of steel and covered with fiberglass. How does it work? To better understand how side guard rails might prevent fatal injuries, researchers performed tests with crash dummies.
When a passenger car traveling at approximately 35 miles per hour collides with the side guard rail of a large truck, the air bags and the seat belt generally protect the crash test dummy. Although the front of the car “crumpled” in these tests, the outcome suggests that passengers could be safer striking side guard rails instead of running the risk of riding underneath the truck.
How do those tests compare with accidents in which the large truck did not have side guard rails? Traveling at 35 miles per hour, “the crash sheared off the car’s roof and the car came to rest under the trailer.” If such an accident had occurred “in real life,” according to the IIHS, it would have resulted in a fatality.
Disputes Over the Merits of Side Guard Rails
If side guard rails can prevent passenger fatalities, why are they not yet required under federal law? There may be a number of different reasons.
First, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) contends that there are “trade-offs” associated with adding side guard rails. They would make the trucks heavier, and they would also “require stiffer trailers that can develop cracks in their frames,” which can be safety risks in and of themselves.
In addition, the trucking industry largely has been focusing on crash prevention technology as opposed to crash mitigation technology. If the primary goal is to avoid accidents in the first place, then focusing on crash mitigation technology could take away from research designed to prevent such accidents altogether.
Seek Advice from a DuPage County Truck Accident Attorney
Will federal law change to require side guard rails on large trucks? The article suggests that such amendments to the law are not likely anytime soon even though side guard rails may prevent fatal accidents.
If you or someone you love sustained injuries in a truck accident, you should discuss your options with a DuPage County truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Contact Mevorah Law Offices LLC today.