Congress Weighs Mandating Side Guards to Prevent Underride Truck Accidents
Underride accidents occur when a passenger vehicle collides with a truck, passing completely underneath the trailer of the rig. As one of the most common types of truck accidents, they have the potential to result in severe and oftentimes fatal injuries. For decades, underride guards have been mandated for use on the back section of trucks, and it is generally acknowledged the measure helps to save lives. As the result of recent manufacturer developments in 2017, lawmakers are now pushing to make side guards a requirement as well.
‘Angel Wing’ Hopes to Reduce Side Underride Truck Accidents
In late summer of 2017, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducted testing on a new product designed to help prevent side underride accidents involving motorists and tractor trailers. The guard, developed by Airflow Deflector Inc. and known as ‘Angel Wing’, is designed to be retrofitted on the side of the trailer. In controlled crash tests involving mid-size vehicles and a 53-foot carrier, the side guard was successful in protecting 62 percent of the trucks total length. On impact with a vehicle traveling at 35 miles per hour, the Angel Wing bent slightly but prevented the car from continuing or going underneath the truck completely. Seat belts would still work to safely hold the driver and passengers in place, while the vehicle’s airbags would deploy as they were designed to do.
The IIHS found that without the side guard, the car went completely under the trailer without stopping, shearing off the roof and all but demolishing the vehicle. In real life, this type of truck accident would likely have proved deadly to the driver, along with the passengers involved. The IIHS estimates that side guard collisions, such as the ones simulated, are responsible for roughly 15 percent of motorist deaths in fatal truck accidents each year.
The Debate Over Mandating Side Guard Use
With the potential to save lives, it would seem like an obvious choice to install the Angel Wing on semi-tractor trucks and trailers. Trucks.com reported that in early 2018, the Stop Underrides Act was introduced, which would mandate the side guard in all 50 states. There are critics of the bill though, who claim the use of Angel Wing is simply not practical and until a more efficient product is developed, any new regulations should wait.
A standard tractor trailer can haul 80,000 pounds. The Angel Wing weighs roughly 800 pounds each, and opponents of its use claim it would cut into the total amount a trucker could carry. They also mention the price tag for installation, an estimated $3,000 or more, along with the potential for the device to throw off the overall balance of the truck.
As experienced West Palm Beach truck accident attorneys, we see firsthand the serious harm underride accidents can cause. We will be watching as the Act passes through the Senate and will keep you up to date on any new developments. If you or someone you care about is involved in a truck accident, reach out and contact the Wexler Law Firm, P.A. right away.