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Inexpensive fix to semi-trucks may save lives in car accidents

A personal injury case in Illinois involving a truck and car often involves victims suffering catastrophic injuries and even death. Results may be tragic when an 80,000-pound truck collides with a passenger vehicle. Truck guards, a relatively simple and inexpensive device that prevents cars from being wedged underneath the truck, can help save hundreds of lives in this country from these accidents. But, as of right now these truck guards have not been mandated.

Approximately 301 vehicle occupants were killed in car accidents involving tractor-trailers when their cars crashed into the side of trucks in 2015. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated that half of all deaths in cars crashing into trucks involved cars hitting the side of the truck trailer.

A public safety advocate claimed that there were over 1,500 fatalities in these types of accidents between 1994 and 2014. In fact, the actress Jayne Mansfield was killed in one of these accidents as far back as June 1967.

Trucks are now equipped with front and back-mounted guards to protect vehicles from rolling up beneath the truck in head-on accidents. However, a car striking the side of the truck can rip off the top of the smaller vehicle. Seat belts or air bags cannot protect a car occupant in these collisions.

Trucks sometimes have fragile fiberglass sideguards which are intended only to lower wind resistance. Existing rear underride guards are based on considerations from the 1980s, and are also insufficient. However, efforts to require upgrade these guards and other safety improvements such as speed limiters have been unsuccessful and fought by the trucking industry.

Advocates argue that the industry should adopt the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2015 proposal requiring devices designed, in line with the stricter standards found in other countries. These call for guards that are stronger, bigger and placed on the sides of the trucks. Estimates place the costs of these guards at only $50 to $100 per truck.

More than 4,000 people were killed in accidents involving large trucks in 2015. These crashes cost an estimated $112 billion in 2014.

Because there are delays in implanting measures to prevent these crashes, victims of semi-truck accidents may want to seek legal assistance. An attorney can help determine whether a victim or their family can pursue their rights in a legal action.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Truck trailers can (easily) be made safer," July 12, 2017

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