How to Prevent the Risk of Fatal Underride Truck Accidents
Truck accidents are, unfortunately, more common than anyone would like them to be. Truck accidents are even more common in areas where the trucking industry plays an everyday role. Commercial areas and roads/highways connecting commercial areas to each other are common scenes of devastating truck accidents. Why are truck accidents so dangerous? Passenger vehicles are miniscule when directly compared to commercial trucks. Commercial trucks are larger and heavier than the passenger vehicles that are normally involved in these accidents. Unfortunately, many truck accidents result in underride. Underride is often fatal. When victims of underride crashes survive, they are often left suffering from life-long injuries that prevent them from ever returning to the state in which they were in prior to the accident. Underride truck accidents have always been a concern for lawmakers. Over the years, there have been many attempts at making changes in truck regulations to make truck accidents less dangerous for the occupants of passenger vehicles. However, truck regulation regarding underride guards continues to be minimal. The harm caused by underride could be prevented or at least significantly lessened. Under guards, when manufactured and installed correctly, can prevent underride altogether. Under guards can make the difference between life and death. Specifically, the under guards allow the impact to occur at the crush/crumple zone of the passenger vehicle (as designed) instead of at the windshield. Underguards can save your life. It is not a rare sight to see a passenger vehicle lodged under a truck’s trailer. These accidents are usually fatal. If you or a member of your family were affected by an underride truck accident, you might have grounds to take legal action. Whether you suffered permanent, debilitating injuries or a member of your family lost his or her life, you could be certain that you have the right to take action. If you would like to learn more about filing an accident claim after a devastating underride truck accident, do not hesitate to contact the experts at Downtown L.A. Law Group as soon as possible.
Why are Underride Guards so Important?
Underride guards and semiguard rails are designed to prevent passenger vehicles from getting lodged underneath trailers. Because commercial trucks and passenger vehicles are so mismatched, the impact can be devastating – not due to the force of the impact but due to the location of the impact. Passenger vehicles have a crush/crumple zone that is designed to absorb the impact when collisions occur. In normal accidents between passenger vehicles, the impact is in this specific zone. However, trucks are much larger than passenger vehicles; therefore, the crush/crumple zone is completely untouched. Because the bottoms of trucks are much higher than the crush/crumple zone in passenger vehicles, the first point of impact is usually between the bottom of the truck and the passenger vehicle’s windshield. When the rear end of the trailer hits/breaks the windshield and enters the passenger compartment of the vehicle, it is referred to passenger compartment intrusion (PCI). If the collision is strong enough, PCI can lead to traumatic injuries that result in instant death, including crushing injuries, for example. In more minor collisions the PCI can be less intrusive and result in non-life-threatening injuries, although likely debilitating. When commercial trucks have rear underride guards, the risk of PCI is almost nonexistent. Because of that, underride guards and semiguard rails are considered to be so important in reducing the number of deaths and injuries suffered in underride accidents and truck accidents in general.
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Current Underride Guard Regulations
Current underride regulations were established in 1996. In this year, experts estimated that more than 11,500 rear-end truck accidents occurred every year – resulting in more than 423 fatalities and more than 5,000 injuries among the occupants of passenger vehicles. How did regulation in 1996 aim to address these devastating numbers?
There are two federal standards that operate together in relation to underride guards on trucks – FMVSS No. 223 and FMVSS No. 224. Consider the following information on these two standards:
- FMVSS No. 223 – this is considered the equipment standard. It specifies the requirements that the guards must meet prior to being installed on trailers. The standard outlines specific strength requirements, as well as certain testing procedures to ensure that the guards are compliant with such requirements. The standard also requires that all guard manufacturers provide thorough instructions regarding the proper installation of the rear guards. Manufacturers must also permanently label the underride guard to show that it meets all requirements established by the standard.
- FMVSS No. 224 – this is considered the vehicle standard. It requires that commercial vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or more be equipped with rear underride guards (that meet the guard specifications established by FMVSS No. 223). The standard also establishes specific requirements for the location of the underride guard (location is relevant to the rear end and sides of the trailer). It also requires that the underride guard is mounted on trailers exactly how it is instructed to be done by the manufacturer of the guard.
These regulations work together in different ways. Over the years, there have been a number of changes introduces to fortify the underride guard regulations. More information regarding the current truck underride guard standards is available here.
Attempts to Change Underride Guard Regulations
Many people claim that the existing legislation regarding underride are simply not enough. Underride truck accidents continue to cause devastation. Because of that, there have been many attempts to change guard regulations to make them more effective. In 2017, the Stop Underride Act would have strengthened rear underride guards, required installation of side underride guards, and required inspections of guards, for example. Unfortunately, the act never passed. However, proponents of the change in underride regulation have not given up. The Stop Underride Act has been reintroduced as of 2019. The act would require that trucks with weights of more than 10,000 pounds to have side guards and front guards. The act would also require that the standards to rear guards to be updated.
The Stop Underride Act, H.R. 1511, is designed to reduce preventable deaths/injuries caused by underride truck accidents. The act is also designed to improve passenger vehicle safety in the case of truck accidents. The act is based on the recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board to install front, rear, and side underguard rails on trailers to improve the safety of passenger vehicles.
Opposition to New Legislation
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) objected the act in 2017 and object the act now in 2019. Both the ATA and OOIDA agree that the requirements laid out in the Stop Underride Act would be impossible to accommodate on the majority of trucking equipment; they also claim that the requirements would result in only minimal changes in safety. The ATA claims that the trucking industry is focused on improving highway safety and developing technology that will reduce crashes rather than just make crashes less severe. The ATA and OOIDA claim that the requirements are unnecessary and expensive. They also claim that there are trucks that are physically unable to accommodate for guards – which would pose another problem. The ATA and OOIDA have also made it clear that some trucks are nearing retirement, and implementing these requirements would be a waste of funds.
Everyone Agrees on the Dangers of Underride Truck Accidents
The Stop Underrides Act has the support of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, National Safety Council, Road to Zero Coalition, and Truck Safety Coalition, among other commercial auto safety groups. In fact, the ATA and OOIDA claim that they would support the act if it applied only to the manufacturing of new trailers. Without a doubt, too many lives are lost due to underride – which can be completely prevented with the implementation of the proper underride guard and semi guard requirements.
Were You Directly Affected by an Underride Truck Crash?
If you and your family were directly affected by a preventable underride incident, it is likely that you support the introduced legislation. If you and your family were affected by an underride truck accident, you might also have grounds to pursue a claim. Whether the underride accident occurred due to a missing guard or a faulty guard, you could pursue a claim. Depending on the specific details of your underride accident, you might also be eligible to receive compensation for the harm that you suffered. If you would like to learn more about the possibility of pursuing an underride truck accident claim, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance with the experts at Downtown L.A. Law Group. Downtown L.A. Law Group is a personal injury law firm with many years of experience handling a variety of claims. We have a thorough understanding of the different ways in which traumatic accidents can affect victims and entire families. If you would like to discuss the possibility of pursuing a claim with our experts, do not hesitate to contact our law firm today – you will find that we offer both free consultations and free second opinions. During our free consultations and free second opinions, our lawyers will be available to provide you with all the information that you might need to start or continue your claim. These free legal services are available as part of our Zero-Fee guarantee, which ensures that our clients never have to worry about paying for any upfront legal fees. Our firm is also strictly based on a contingency structure; therefore, our clients will never pay anything until their claims are successful. If you would like to discuss your underride truck accident claim with our lawyers, do not hesitate to contact our law firm as soon as possible.