Deadly Side Crashes into Semi-Trucks
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Deadly Side Crashes into Semi-Trucks

Tuesday, October 16, 2018By Richard Alexander

Truck accidents are among the deadliest types of collisions on the road. In 2016, 3,986 people were killed in crashes with large trucks. Of those who died, 66 percent were passenger car occupants. While not all accidents can be avoided, truck companies have implemented some important measures to make sharing the road with trucks a safer experience. But a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) warns that truck companies may not be doing enough to protect drivers in certain types of crashes.

Improved Truck Guards Increase Safety

Semi-trucks are required by law to place guards on the backs of their vehicles. The IIHS performed tests on the eight largest manufacturers of truck guards in the U.S. Subsequently, these companies and others like them improved the metal guards for the backs of trucks. By making the metal guards larger and more resilient, cars are less likely to be forced underneath a semi-truck in the event of a collision. This one improvement has resulted in lower death rates in rear crashes in certain states.

Side Crashes Remain a Significant Danger

While rear end crash statistics improved with better truck guard technology, side crashes are still a significant safety issue on the roads. The death rate increased for side crashes with semi-trucks between 2010 and 2016. Federal law does not mandate that semi-trucks be equipped with side guards even though side impact collisions can be even more dangerous than other types of impacts. Truck drivers have a significant blind spot on the sides of their vehicles so driving alongside a truck can be extremely dangerous. A study in 2012 found that strong side guards could reduce the risk of injury in almost three quarters of the incidents where an occupant in the vehicle was seriously injured by an impact with the side of a large truck. Trucks in Europe have had side guards dating back to 2000. That begs the question: why are they are not standard in the United States?

The Pros and Cons of Side Underride Guards

Industry experts, insurance companies, and safety activists claim that truck fleets will purchase and equip their fleets with side underride guards if they are made available. Others have pointed to some unwelcomed consequences of a government requirement to mount side guards. Trailers would be heavier and more expensive to maintain. Truck traffic could increase because more trailers would be necessary to haul the freight and more truck traffic is likely to cause more accidents and more deaths.

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