Tractor-trailer trucks with side guards installed on the sides, between their front and rear tires, are less likely to be involved in a deadly collision. That's according to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Still, the trucking industry is bucking this assertion, arguing that the better way to prevent these fatal injuries is to avoid trucking accidents in the first place.
Our Macomb County trucking accident lawyers recognize that while crash prevention is certainly an important and worthwhile goal, it negates the fact that, until we all have self-driving cars, human error will continue to lead to mistakes on the road. In truth, what the resistance from industry leaders come from a desire to protect their bottom line. Side guards would be a costly addition if added to each truck - but nearly so costly as the loss of life incurred when they aren't in place.
Just ask Lois Durso and Marianne Karth. The two women bonded in a way neither of them would have ever wished: The loss of their daughters, all three to trucking accidents that proved fatal with a lack of side underride guards. Durso lost her 26-year-old daughter the day before Thanksgiving 2004, when her daughter lost control in a blizzard and slammed into the side of a truck. Karth lost her two daughters, ages 13 and 17, when a truck driver lost control and slammed into the family on the interstate as they were returning from a wedding.
How Side Underride Make Us Safer
The recent IIHS study involved two separate crash tests, both involving T-bone crashes between a semi-truck and a passenger car. The primary difference between the two was that in one test, there was a side underride guard, and in the other, there was none.
In the crash with the side underride guard, the vehicle was repelled by the guard. The seat belts were triggered and the airbags were deployed. Occupants of that vehicle likely would have walked away largely unarmed, researchers opined.
However, in the second crash, with no underride guard, the passenger vehicle slid underneath the big rig, sheering off the roof of the car. Occupants of that vehicle, researchers said, would have suffered catastrophic and likely fatal injuries.
The sole difference was the side guard.
Under-trailer side impacts were the cause of nearly 1 in 5 passenger car deaths over the last two decades. Meanwhile, rear-impact deaths were much lower, mostly attributed to the fact that the law requires rear underride guards.
Fighting for Change
Durso and Karth are fighting to bolster the mandatory federal standards currently in place. As of now, 49 CFR 571.223 requires large trucks to be equipped with rear impact guards, which protect when a passenger vehicle slams into the rear of a truck. However, there is no such requirement for side impact guards.
The two mothers penned legislation - named after their daughters - that would require both side and rear underride guards on all trucks.
The women say that while reception from legislators has been positive, they are up against the well-funded trucking industry lobby, which isn't eager to jump on the bandwagon.
Good news, though, is that some trucking companies have taken the initiative upon themselves to install the side guards, even though it isn't required.