A recent article by AOL Auto Correspondent Kevin Ransom highlighted an ongoing highway safety issue. According to recent statistics, crashes between a passenger car and the “underride guards” on the backs of tractor-trailers prove fatal at even lower speeds.
These rear guards are the primary countermeasure for reducing deaths and injuries when a passenger vehicle crashes into the back of a tractor-trailer, says Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Institute is petitioning the federal government to require stronger underride guards that will remain in place during a crash–and to mandate guards for those large trucks and trailers that are not currently required to have them.
In 2009, 70 percent of the 3,163 people who died in all large truck crashes were occupants of cars or other passenger vehicles, Lund said. In many of these crashes, the upper part of a passenger vehicle’s cabin was crushed when the body of the truck or trailer smashed through the vehicle’s safety cage.
“The way passenger cars are designed, if you crash into another passenger car, the front-end structures can withstand and distribute a tremendous amount of crash energy, in a way that minimizes injuries for vehicle occupants,” says Lund. “But hitting the back of a large truck is a totally different situation. Your vehicle could be one that earns top marks in frontal crash tests, but if that truck’s underride guard fails — or if the truck doesn’t have one at all — your chances of walking away from even a relatively low-speed crash are not good at all.”
The point of this research is simple: you are only as safe as the most unsafe vehicle on the road, so be alert!