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“Under-ride” crashes persistent concern in Ohio, nationally

“This is not rocket science, and it’s obviously not cost prohibitive,” says Adrian Lund, the president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). He adds: “And we know how to fix this.”

What Lund is referring to is the too-often deadly car crash scenario in which a passenger vehicle collides with a commercial truck from behind and, owing to the variance in height, slides beneath the truck. In such cases, the fatality rate is understandably high.

So-called “under-ride” crashes occur with some regularity on roadways across the country, say safety regulators. Statistics compiled by the IIHS indicate that about 400 people nationally die annually in such accidents.

What bothers Lund and others is that safety experts are well aware of the problem and have been cognizant of it for a number of years. In fact, officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) say that they formally identified the problem four year ago and have since then “been conducting an in-depth field analysis” to determine how to best fix it and save lives.

The consensus on that seems both firm and straightforward, namely, to strengthen the metal bar called an under-ride guard that is already required by law to be installed on larger commercial trucks. It is simply not strong enough to stop cars from sliding beneath trucks when collisions occur at even moderate speeds.

A spokesperson for the Ohio Highway Patrol says that compliance is also an issue, regardless of the standard in place. Troopers conducting truck inspections often see broken or rusted-out guards that would be ineffective in a collision at virtually any speed.

The NHTSA is mum on the details of a new standard or the timing for its implementation.

Source: Fox 8 Cleveland, “Can killer crashes be prevented?” Bill Sheil, Feb. 11, 2013