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Standards protecting against "underride" accidents questioned

With the height discrepancy between semi truck trailers and cars being so great, many collisions between the two in which a car runs into the back of a truck result in the car's windshield taking the brunt of the contact.

Such collisions kill many hundreds of people every year. To protect other vehicles in a truck accident, many trailers have been outfitted with metal guards underneath the trailer that are designed to contact the car below the windshield in an effort to save lives and reduce the severity of accidents.

Too often, though, car accidents involving semi truck trailers are not aided by these undercarriage guards, which can give way too easily and do nothing to impede another vehicle. Likely surprising to Ohio drivers and other motorists nationally is that these truck crash safety measures are often ineffective even when they meet the standards of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A recent study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) provides further confirmation of the nominal efficacy of underride guards, arguing that the guards are not strong enough to stop cars from sliding underneath the vehicle even when traveling at moderate speeds.

The IIHS is confident that heightened standards could make underride guards more effective and that underride accidents could be almost entirely prevented by more stringent measures and stronger guards.

According to one expert, the standards for underride guards haven't been changed since the mid-1990s. And until new safety standards are implemented, it is unlikely that trucking companies will do any more than the bare minimum to improve this safety feature on their trailers.

Source: Fox News, "IIHS: Truck safety standards need update," Doug Smith, June 27, 2012

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