Agency considering added protection to prevent underrides

Truck accidents on Pennsylvania highways can be catastrophic to occupants of other vehicles that are involved in the collision due in part to the overwhelming weight and size of big rigs. One type of accident that often proves fatal is when a smaller car collides with the side or rear of a truck and travels underneath it. This can cause the roof and passenger compartment to be sheared off, and it is referred to as an underride accident.

In order to try and reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused by underrides, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering the adoption of new regulations. Underride protection has been required on the rear of trucks for more half a century. However, no protection is mandated for sides, and not all existing rear guards are constructed using materials that provide sufficient protection.

The NHTSA is seeking public comment on its proposals. During a May 2016 conference on the subject of underride accidents, owners of trucking companies expressed their concern, believing that the cost of upgrades could be prohibitive. Some also felt that strengthening rear underride guards and requiring side ones would add to the weight of their vehicles, which would have the effect of reducing the amount of cargo that they could transport under existing weight regulations.

While the adoption of the NHTSA proposals could reduce the severity of injuries in an underride accident, the rules would not have any appreciable effect on the frequency of accidents caused by inattentive truck drivers. People who have been injured in such an accident may want to meet with an attorney to see whether the truck company itself could be held financially responsible for their losses.