Have you ever gotten stuck in a traffic jam behind a semitruck? It’s actually one of the most vulnerable places you can be on the road. It’s very hard to do anything to avoid an accident if someone does not stop in time and runs into the back of your vehicle.
For instance, imagine that another truck driver gets distracted by a radio call and doesn’t see the back-up in a construction zone. You stop in time and wait for the line to move forward, but that second semi comes up behind you far too quickly. You see the glare of the headlights, but you have nowhere to go and it slams into the back of your car.
Even if you do not get injured in that impact, your car could get shoved underneath the semitruck ahead of you. This is incredibly dangerous if it happens because the rear bumper of the truck can tear right into your passenger cabin.
How are these accidents prevented?
Federal regulations help to reduce the chances of an accident like this by making it so that trucks need to use underride guards. This is essentially a metal crossbeam behind the rear wheels of the truck.
The idea is that your car will then impact the beam with its front end or bumper, keeping your car from sliding under and saving your life. It’s a simple design that can help limit serious injuries.
This does not mean you would not get hurt at all in the accident described above. It’s still a serious accident. However, the guards can help to keep your car out of the most perilous position.
However, there are a number of problems that increase the danger. For one thing, trucks do not legally need guards on the sides of the vehicles. If a truck pulled out in front of you during a left-hand turn, driving across your lane, you could hit it broadside. Your vehicle could get jammed under the semi, between the wheels.
These side guards do exist. Some of them worked very well in crash tests. But they are not mandated by the government, so most trucks do not use them.
Another issue is that many rear underride guards do not actually hold up to an impact. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted a comprehensive test and reports after the test claimed that “initial IIHS crash tests found that many rear guards were weak and could buckle or break off in a crash.” This means that even trucks with guards may not protect you in these violent accidents.
If you do get injured in a truck accident, or if you lose a loved one, make sure you know all of the legal options you have.