How Side Guards on Trailers Help Prevent Underride Accidents

Any car crash can be devastating, but an accident involving a commercial truck has a higher likelihood of serious injuries or death for the people involved. Some of the deadliest truck-specific accidents are underride accidents. These accidents occur when a smaller car slides under a truck’s trailer after colliding with it. During an underride accident, the roof of the vehicle could be sheared off, or the full weight of the trailer could crush the smaller passenger vehicle.

While federal regulations like Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 223 require the installation  of rear-impact guards to prevent rear underride accidents, side-impact underride accidents continue to be a serious problem. Now, highway safety experts are testing a device that can be installed on the sides of a trailer to prevent cars from sliding underneath it. Aptly named the AngelWing, this device is manufactured by Airflow Deflector Inc. and others like it could help bring a much-needed reduction to the number of side-impact underride accidents nationwide, saving lives in the process..

If you or someone you love has hurt in an underride accident, the Roseville truck accident attorneys of Sevey, Donahue, & Talcott can help. Contact us at (916) 788-7100 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team today.

Side-impact accidents by the numbers

Although recent federal regulations have helped to prevent many rear-end underride accidents, they have done little to stop the same thing from happening when drivers hit the side of a trailer. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which conducted the testing on the AngelWing device, 1,542 people died in tractor-trailer collisions in 2015, including 301 drivers who hit the side of a trailer, compared to 292 who struck the rear. These numbers show that more work is needed to safeguard drivers and passengers involved in side-impact collisions with trucks and preventing underride accidents is an integral part of those efforts.

Why underride accidents are so deadly

Underride accidents are some of the most dangerous types of truck accidents. This is because of the extreme danger the driver and passengers are put in when these accidents occur. When a car hits the back, side, or other part of a truck, the crumple zones will crush, airbags will deploy, and the seatbelts will protect the driver and passengers inside. In an underride accident, however, the top of the car is forced under the trailer and can be crushed, sheared off, or may be dragged for some distance before the vehicles come to a stop. This can result in a number of serious to fatal injuries, including:

  •      Being crushed by the weight of the trailer
  •      Head injuries from roof cave-in or the roof being sheared off
  •      Injuries from impact with the trailer’s undercarriage
  •      Lacerations from broken glass
  •      Burns and severe scarring
  •      Other potentially deadly injuries

While we commonly associate underride accidents with the back of a trailer, the side of a tractor-trailer poses the same risk in the event of a side-impact collision.

How do side-impact collisions happen?

Cars and trucks are often involved in side-impact crashes when they are traveling perpendicular to each other. Another common way that cars hit the sides of trucks is in a jackknife accident. These accidents occur when the truck driver loses control and the trailer swings out perpendicular to the cab, making a 90-degree angle. These deadly accidents can result in the truck’s cab pointing toward traffic while the trailer forms a wall across multiple lanes. Cars may be unable to avoid hitting the trailer when this happens, and if there are no side-guards to prevent it, they can collide with the trailer and slide underneath it.

How do side guards work?

Side guards are an emerging solution to the side-impact underride problem. The concept is to attach metal guards to the sides of trailers that extend below the bottom of the trailer, leaving very little space between the bottom of the guard and the road. While a collision with a side guard is still dangerous, it will prevent cars from sliding underneath the trailer.

Side guard devices are still being tested

Recent side guard tests have delivered encouraging results. Last year, the IIHC’s testing showed that the AngelWing side guard by Airflow was able to prevent side-impact underride accidents for cars traveling at up to 40 miles per hour. In these lower-speed tests, the airbags deployed in the car and the seat belt kept the test dummy securely in place — for a driver or passenger, this would greatly reduce the risk of serious injury. There is still quite a bit of work to be done to make side guards stronger and install them on more trucks across the U.S. The IIHC also notes that additional efforts are needed to improve rear guards on trucks as well.

Contact a truck accident lawyer serving Roseville today

While improvements in truck safety are still being developed, underride accidents still happen every day across the U.S. Many victims experience severe injuries or lose their lives in these devastating accidents. Recovering after an accident with a truck is never easy, but an experienced personal injury lawyer can help make sure that you do not struggle financially. If you or someone you love has been hurt in a truck accident, the Roseville truck accident lawyers of Sevey, Donahue & Talcott are ready to fight for you and will help you seek full and fair compensation for your injuries. For more information on how we can help you, call us now at (916) 788-7100.