The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is considering proposals that might improve underride guards on semi trucks in North Carolina and across the United States. Underride guards make trucks safer by preventing motor vehicle crashes in which passenger cars roll under a semi truck, often causing the destruction of the passenger compartment.
Since 1953, federal law has required that commercial trucks be equipped with rear guards to prevent underride accidents. There are no regulations, however, requiring underride guards on the sides of semi trucks. And there may be gaps in the existing rear guard requirements, as there are no quality or material standards. The NHTSA is considering proposals to improve the effectiveness of underride guards and has invited auto safety experts and the public at large to submit comments.
According to data maintained by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, underride accidents caused in excess of 5,000 traffic fatalities between 1994 and 2014. In 2014, 228 traffic fatalities resulted from cars skidding or sliding beneath commercial semi trucks, according to FARS statistics. The Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, though, published a report in 2013 indicating the real numbers of side underride fatalities may have been three times as many as the FARS numbers.
The NHTSA is expected to consider roadway safety, costs to truck owners and the effectiveness of underride guard technologies in developing any new requirements for drivers and owners. While these improvements might very well reduce the seriousness of some injuries that are suffered in commercial truck accidents, the accident itself may have been the fault of a truck driver who was distracted, speeding or otherwise negligent. In such an event, an attorney might help an injured victim seek compensation from the at-fault party.