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Underride Guards Help Prevent Fatalities in Car-Truck Collisions

It has been two years since the crash, and you’re still having nightmares. You can no longer drive on the highway, and you have panic attacks whenever you see a semi. Every time you think about the crash it’s as if it’s happening all over again.

You’re back in your old Malibu, merging onto I-35 in between a truck convoy. You manage to squeeze between two semis and match their speed. Since your exit isn’t for a few miles, you switch on your cruise control and aimlessly follow the lead truck.

When your phone rings, you take your eyes off the road for a split second as you reach it. You push the talk button and raise your eyes back to the highway. Time slows down. As you were picking up the phone, the truck ahead of you began to brake. You’re now 10 feet from its back end and too close to stop.

There’s a deafening crunch as you hit the underride guard on the back of the trailer. It is a major impact and you are grateful for the airbag. Still, your entire body is throbbing. After a few moments, you start to hear sirens. You blink a few times to focus, and you’re back to reality. Your heart’s beating a mile a minute, you’re sweating, and your hands are shaking, but you’re no longer in your car. You gingerly rub the scars on your arms and neck, and try to calm down.

The only thing you can think about is what would have happened if the underride guards had failed? Would you still be alive, or would the semi have completely cut your car in half and you with it? 

Underride Guard Protection From Rear-End Collisions

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, over 200,000 truck crashes occur each year, fatally wounding over 4,000 people and severely injuring more than 100,000. Of these crashes, 19% are collisions where a passenger vehicle collides into the back end of a semi. These crashes prove to be the most fatal because the car is forced under the truck, cutting the top half of the car off.

Due to the horrific nature and high risk of underride crashes, trucks are required to have underride safety guards to help prevent vehicles from being able to slide under the trailers. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, these guards are the main countermeasure for reducing underride crashes and fatalities. A DOT and University of Michigan Transportation Research study has shown that since the implementation of proper guards in 2012, underride fatalities decreased by 20% and show signs for a continued decrease.

The guards are basic metal bars attached to the underside of semi-trailers. They have three main protective functions: barrier, stopping block, and impact-absorber.

  • Barriers. The main problem for underride crashes is that truck trailers are higher off the ground than a normal car’s axis. Therefore, a car’s front end can easily fit underneath a truck’s trailer, allowing the taller midsection compartment (where you sit), to get closer to the trailer itself. However, by having guards placed on the same axis level as normal vehicles, cars are unable to pass the barrier to slide under.
  • Stopping blocks. Since the bars are placed at a lower level than the trailers themselves, they prevent the front end of vehicles from continuing under the trailer unimpeded. Instead of having nothing to stop the vehicle until the upper carriage hits the trailer’s edge, the guards provide a block for the front end your vehicle to impact first, thus stopping the car from continuing forward.
  • Impact Absorbers. In underride collisions, the main structures that help absorb impact force on cars (the front bumper, engine block, and front axis) are completely bypassed as they slide under the trailer. This means that all the force is exerted into the impact of the trailer into the upper compartment, causing it to sheer off and crush the windshield, roof and everything in between. However, with guards, the impact force is exerted where it can be managed—at the front of the vehicle. 

Protecting Your Loved Ones and Guarding Your Future

Although guards can drastically lessen your chance of dying in a rear truck collision, severe injuries are often still present. However, short of avoiding driving altogether, nothing can 100% guarantee that you or your loved ones will never suffer a rear end truck collision, nor come out unscathed. That’s why it is extremely important to know your risks and take proper precautions to avoid such crashes. You should also know your options following such a tragedy.

We know how frustrating and complicated truck crash claims can be, especially when so many things can make or break your case. Let our experience and knowledge work for you. Contact us today for a free consultation and see how we can help protect your family’s future.

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