The horror of seeing a tractor trailer stop suddenly in front of you while driving strikes fear in us all. Our Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys know the catastrophic and often fatal injuries caused when passenger vehicles are involved in a Florida trucking accident.
Underride guards are not protecting occupants in vehicles that rear end tractor-trailers, according to a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Often severe injuries, including death from decapitation, happen when the underride guard isn’t strong enough to withstand the impact from the vehicle.
An underride guard is the less than sturdy pieces of metal that you see hanging under the back of a tractor trailer. The purpose of the guard is to stop a vehicle from riding under the trailer.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported in 2008, that more than 4,000 large trucks were involved in deadly crashes. More than 4,200 people perished in those crashes and an additional 90,000 sustained injuries.
In Florida, of the 4,227 vehicles involved in fatal crashes in 2008, 269 were large trucks. When crashes involve two vehicles, large trucks are hit in the rear 3 times more than any other vehicle. Large trucks fatally colliding into other vehicles result in deaths in the other vehicle 74 percent of the time.
The IIHS evaluated 1,000 real crashes that occurred between 2001 through 2003. Of the 1,000 crashes, there were 115 involving a vehicle rear ending a tractor trailer. Of those 115 crashes, death to the occupant occurred 28 times. Catastrophic underride happened in 23 of the 28 cases where an occupant was killed. Underride did not happen in 25 cases.
Conducting its own testing the IIHS used three trailer guards that met current U.S. compliance standards. Two of the three trailers also met the stricter standards of Canada. The current Canadian standards far exceed the U.S. standards regarding strength and energy absorption.
Only one guard passed the crash test that involved a vehicle going 35 mph and hitting the guard dead center. The passing guard, which was one that met Canadian standards, kept the vehicle from going under the truck. None of the guards prevented underride when the vehicle hit the guard off center.
“Under current certification standards, the trailer, underride guard, bolts, and welding don’t have to be tested as a whole system. That’s a big part of the problem. Some manufacturers do test guards on the trailer. We think all guards should be evaluated this way. Underride standards haven’t kept pace with improvements in passenger vehicle crashworthiness. Absent regulation, there’s little incentive for manufacturers to improve underride countermeasures, so we hope NHTSA will move quickly on our petition,” says Adrian Lund, Institute president.
If you or someone you know have been injured in an accident in West Palm Beach, Margate, Port St. Lucie or the surrounding areas, contact the Law Offices of Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez. Call 1-800-529-2368 for a free consultation to discuss your rights.