In a crash between a car and a semitruck in Georgia, the large truck driver is the one most likely to be able to walk away. This is due to the differences in size, weight and ground clearance. However, Forbes magazine reports that often, it is also because the tractor trailer does not have the safety features that would save the lives of passengers in smaller vehicles.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety researchers have been performing studies on the need for underride guards on trailers for years. When installed at the bottom of the trailer, these hang down low enough to catch the front of a vehicle and prevent it from sliding underneath. In the U.S., mandatory rear underride guards are already lowering the risk of serious and fatal injuries in rear-end collisions.
Side underride guards have been developed that perform the same function. Crash tests indicate that rather than being decapitated when the car slides under the trailer, car passengers will be protected by their vehicle’s crumple zones, airbags and seat belts. In fact, like the truck driver, they may even leave the scene with minor or no injuries.
Trucks.com notes that in Europe, side underride guards have been mandatory for decades, and some U.S cities also require them. However, the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association claims that if the federal government makes this feature a requirement, it could compromise the structure of trailers and cause other safety issues. Even so, many American manufacturers are voluntarily taking action to prevent traffic deaths by adding guards to the sides of their trailers.