A Simple Way to Reduce Serious Injuries in Big Rig Truck Accidents: Stonger Underride Guards

chevyNew studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show the importance of strengthening underride guards on the rear of tractor trailers. Underride guards are the iron bars that you see coming down from the back of tractor trailers. They are the main safety measure to prevent personal injuries caused by cars sliding under the rear of tractor trailers in rear end type car accidents.

The study showed that in roughly 1,000 truck accidents studied by the Institute, 78% of the rear end crashes with trucks involved underride. When this occurs there is a heightened risk of head trauma, traumatic brain injury, or even decapitation. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 423 people die annually, and 5,000 people are seriously injured when the front end of the car slides beneath a truck trailer in a rear end type accident.

Improvements in the safety of the underride guard can and should be made. One study showed that 11% of fatalities and 30% of serious personal injuries could be prevented if trucks were equipped with an energy absorbing system, instead of a rigid type system. Canada has stricter requirements than the United States with regard to the strength and energy absorption of these guards. According to the Institute’s studies these stronger requirements help prevent underride and the serious injuries that result from that.

As a Alameda personal injury lawyer, I represented a woman who ran into the back of a truck in the late 80’s near Castro Valley on Highway 580. As a result of her car underriding the trailer, she suffered severe permanent brain damage and has been in a skilled nursing facility with full time care since that time. I think of her every time I drive past that spot on Highway 580 where the collision occurred. Stronger standards, such as those already promulgated in Canada, are needed to help prevent injuries like those suffered by my client. I am glad to see that the IIHS is studying the issue and making appropriate recommendations to NHTSA.


Insurance Institute for Highway Safeway, Underride guards on big rigs often fail in crashes; Institute petitions government for new standard, March 1, 2011

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