An average of 219 people died annually in the U.S. in underride collisions during the 10 years through 2017, according to government research. However, that number likely is much higher due to inconsistencies as to how local and state governments collect such data.
Those inconsistencies — along with the better protection of drivers in these horrific collisions with large trucks — were recently addressed in updated federal standards.
Installing rear guards on trailers
Improving data collection procedures in underride collisions – when smaller vehicles crashes and skids under a tractor-trailer – is just part of the updates made to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
In June, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) OK’d a revised rule that — among other things – requires the installation of sufficient and durable rear impact guards on trailers and semi-trailers. Such guards may prevent deaths and catastrophic injuries to driver and their passengers whose vehicle crash into them.
Improving data collection, creating advisory committee
While the main point of the updated rule focuses on protection, other provisions include:
- Improving data collection on nationwide underride crashes: A uniform way to collect such data is necessary to provide more accurate statistics. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied U.S. underride collisions from 2008 to 2017, finding that an average of 219 people die each year in such crashes. However, the agency concluded that that number is likely higher.
- Assembling an advisory committee: With the creation of such a committee, the government hopes to study the effectiveness of side underride guards on large trucks.
- Additional research on rear-impact guards: Their design will get scrutiny to ensure that these guards provide improved protection for drivers.
- Publishing a notice on side underride guards: The publication will address the consideration of federal rules requiring side underride guards on trailers and semi-trailers.
In addition, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will increase the NHTSA’s budget by more than 50%. The NHTSA’s long-time goal has been to reduce U.S. deaths, injuries and economic loss related to motor vehicle accidents.
Waiting with optimism
Safety advocates have long sought improved protections for drivers involved in underride collisions. Let us wait and see with optimism as to just how effective these new rules will be.