A bipartisan effort in Congress could soon end that unsettling view beneath passing tractor-trailers on the Interstate and have a significant impact on passenger, bicyclist and pedestrian safety in urban areas of Virginia.
The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 would update standards for rear underride guards and require side underride guards for trailers and front underride guards for large commercial tractors over 10,000 pounds gross weight.
Injury attorneys and safety advocates know these are some of the deadliest collisions on the road. Rear underride collisions have been blamed on faulty and substandard guards in an increasing number of cases. These standards have not been updated since the 1990s and lag behind rules and regulations already in place in Canada, Europe and elsewhere. An experienced attorney should always be contacted after a Roanoke truck accident, as these are legally complex cases that often result in serious or fatal injuries.
Dangers of Side and Rear Underride Collisions
The legislation was introduced by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D- N.Y.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as well as Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.).
However, those tempted to hail the bipartisan effort might want to temper their enthusiasm. Trucks.com reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published proposed new standards for rear guards in 2015 but has yet to enact the measure despite crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that show many of the underride guards currently used on tractor trailers are ineffective. Particularly in offset crashes, some of the existing guards have a tendency to shear through the passenger cabin of a motor vehicle as it passes beneath the trailer anyway.
Some manufacturers have taken steps to improve guard performance. Last year, IIHS recognized five North American trailer manufacturers with tough guard awards, including Great Dane, Manac Inc., Stroughton Trailers, Vanguard National Trailer Corp. and Wabash National Corp.
Preventing Underride Collisions in Southwest Virginia
The government estimates more than 4,000 motorists have been killed in underride accidents in recent years. Most of those occurred in rear underride collisions when a passenger car rear-ended the back of a tractor-trailer. However, an increasing number of cases involve side-underride accidents, most typically when a tractor-trailer swings wide to make a turn and fails to yield to approaching motorists.
Thus, side guards could be particularly effective at reducing these tragic accidents in cities and urban cores, where trucks must often compete with motorists, walkers, bicyclists, scooters, wheelchairs and other vulnerable road users. The side guards would cost about $4,000 per set. The new measures are being reviewed by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has not yet offered its endorsement.
Regardless of whether these new safety measures become law anytime soon, the issue highlights the risks motorists face when interacting with tractor-trailers or other large commercial vehicles. Staying safe means always treating these trucks as if they have the right of way.
Expect trucks to make wide, sweeping turns and don't get pinched in. Avoid following a truck too closely. If you can't see a truck's side mirrors, the truck driver can't see you. Following too closely also reduces a driver's visibility and obstructs the view of approaching traffic and street signals. In the event of a crash, you should seek the legal advocacy of an experienced truck accident attorney. Contact Davis, Davis, Davis & Davis, PC today and find out how we can help.