Montana drivers know the danger they can face when encountering an 18-wheeler, especially in bad weather. Whether they are cruising down an Interstate, driving on one of Montana’s federal or state roads, or negotiating city traffic, hitting or being hit by a huge truck puts them at grave risk for serious injury or death.
Forbes reports that the risk of death by decapitation is very high for occupants of a passenger car when it hits the rear or side of a high-riding trailer. Often the car fails to stop on impact, but rather keeps going and slides under the trailer. Its windshield, hood and roof are sheared off in the process. A strong truck underride guard can prevent or substantially reduce the risk of this happening.
For more than 20 years, federal law has required a rear underride guard to be on the back of each commercial trailer. It is like an extra metal bumper that hangs from the bottom of the trailer’s back. Per CNN, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been conducting safety tests of both back and side underride guards since 2012. Test results prove that side underride guards not only save lives, but also reduce the risk of passenger vehicle occupant injury by up to 90 percent. Nevertheless, no federal mandate has been issued for these guards.
According to IIHS data, 1,542 people died in car-truck crashes in 2015. Almost 40 percent of these fatalities were the result of side or rear crashes, the numbers being 301 and 292 respectively. While the exact number of fatalities involving an underride situation is unknown, the IIHS estimates that they account for half of the total number of car-truck deaths.
Updated safety standards needed
Not only do side underride guards need to be federally mandated, the safety standards for rear underride guards have not been updated since the rear guard mandate went into effect in the 1990s. In all too many instances, today’s rear underride guards fail to stop a moving car. Instead they buckle or break when a passenger vehicle crashes into them.