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IIHS: underride guards unsafe in rear-end collisions

Tractor trailers are commonly seen on highways throughout Texas, and in an effort to keep all drivers safe, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety performs crash tests on commercial trucks and tractor trailers. One of the tests looks at how safe underride guards are on tractor trailers for passengers in rear-end collisions with trucks.

Underride guards are on the back of commercial trucks and they are supposed to offer protection in the event of a truck accident by blocking cars from driving underneath a truck in a rear-end crash. Unfortunately, new safety tests by the IIHS found that a majority of underride guards on tractor trailers do not prevent fatal injuries in rear-end collisions.

The safety tests used a 2010 Chevy Malibu and crashed the vehicle into the underride guards on commercial trucks at the low speed of 35 miles per hour. The tests included a full overlap crash test, a 50 percent overlap crash test and a narrow overlap crash test to see how much protection underride guards offer in an accident.

During the safety test, all tractor trailers prevented the vehicle from going under the truck during the full overlap test at 35 mph. In the 50 percent overlap test, all but one tractor trailer prevent the car from going underneath. In the narrow overlap test, all but one of trucks tested prevented the car from going underneath. These findings show just how dangerous a rear-end collision with a tractor trailer can be, even at low speeds.

The IIHS reported that despite the federal law that requires tractor trailers to have underride guards that prevent cars from going under them in rear-end crashes, most underride guards do not offer protection during accidents.

The study said that the underride guards are not strong enough to keep vehicles from sliding underneath the truck. In the event of a collision, the underride guards are supposed to collapse to reduce the risk of injury to occupants in the car. However, most underride guards do not stay in place after a car hits them and ends up crushing the vehicle and severely or fatally injuring the occupants inside the vehicle.

Safety groups are hoping that the new safety test results will raise awareness about the dangers of rear-end collisions with commercial trucks, and push federal agencies to increase their safety regulations for commercial trucks in the U.S.

Source: GM Authority, "Crash Tested: 2010 Chevy Malibu Featured In IIHS' Heavy Truck Trailer Safety Tests," Alex Luft, April 14, 2013

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