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Underride guards may need to change

With a great number of semi-trucks travelling through our region, the potential for catastrophic accidents is always present. While crashes where a truck broadsides or rear-ends a car are common, an equally dangerous issue has not been addressed on a national level.

Trailer underride guards have been a topic of discussion amongst safety groups for quite some time. Essentially, researchers have found that many commercial trucks are not equipped with guards that protect car passengers from the potential of severe head trauma.

Since many trailers have bodies that extend over their rear axles, the guard acts like a wall that prevents cars from sliding under the trailer. As such, motorists ostensibly will not be decapitated if they rear-end a semi-truck. Instead, the car's front end will absorb the impact, keeping passengers safe in the vehicle.

In tests conducted by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS), a number of underride guards failed to protect car passengers, even though the guards met U.S. safety requirements. While the guards were properly installed and raised to the proper height above the road, they did not absorb the impact as expected. Instead, they crumpled under the trailer and allowed the test vehicle to continue.

However, similar guards that were made for Canadian specifications performed better. The stronger guards were able to absorb the impact, and some were lower to the ground, so as to compensate for smaller vehicles.

The IIHS made several recommendations that specifications for underride guards be updated to prevent future catastrophic accidents, but it remains to be seen whether they will be implemented.

Source: Safetysearch.net, IIHS petitions for change to truck rear underride guards

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