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New device can prevent truck crash deaths

A truck accident involving a car colliding into the underneath side of a semi-truck, known as a side underride crash, can be deadly. North Carolina residents may be interested to hear that estimates by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicate that an underride crash was related to approximately 50 percent of the fatal accidents between a large truck and passenger vehicle.

In 2015, 301 of the 1,542 passenger vehicle fatalities from collisions with a tractor-trailer were involved in crashes with the side of the truck. By comparison, 292 people were killed when passenger vehicles rear-ended a tractor-trailer.

A IIHS 2012 study determined that strong side underride guards may reduce injury risks in approximately three-fourths of large truck accidents causing a fatality or serious injury to an occupant in a passenger vehicle. In accidents with semitrailers, this reduction was approximately 90 percent.

Federal law now requires only the installation of rear underride, not side, guards on large trucks. Some cities in the United States require side guards on trucks owned by or contracted for the city as part of initiatives to prevent crash deaths and injuries, especially among pedestrians and bicyclists.

The IIHS conducted tests this spring on two side guard devices installed on a 53-foot-long dry van trailer. Where a passenger vehicle crashed into a truck equipped with this device, the underride guard bent but the car could not go underneath trailer and its airbags and safety belt successfully restrained the test dummy in the passenger seat.

When this device was not installed, the car crashed into the trailer and kept proceeding. The crash impact sheered the car roof and the car got wedged underneath the trailer. Any human occupants in the car would have likely died.

The tractor and trailer wheels provide some protection for passenger vehicles. When there was no side underride guard, 28 percent of a 53-foot trailer's length is protected. With the tested devices, 62 percent of the trailer's length is protected. These sideguard underride devices may be retrofitted to fit existing semi-trailers.

Victims of a trucking accident caused by a negligent driver or inadequate safety equipment may want to seek compensation for medical expenses and lost wages. An attorney can help victims and their families pursue their rights in a lawsuit, if appropriate.

Source: iihs.org, "IIHS tests show benefits of side underride guards for semitrailers," May 10, 2017

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