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More Surviving Crashes With Big Rigs; Underride Guards Help
Every day American drivers share the highways with tractor trailers. A new report finds the odds of surviving a crash into the back of one of those trucks have improved, but certain collisions are still more deadly than others.
It comes down to how a vehicle collides with the truck. That angle could mean the difference in life and death.
It can be a scary and often deadly combination -- a passenger car colliding with the back of a semitrailer at highway speeds. These accidents, known as underride incidents, can kill or leave victims with severe head and neck injuries when the top of the car is crushed.
New crash tests of eight types of semitrailers by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that most underride guards, those steel bars that hang from the backs of trailers, do a decent job of preventing cars from sliding underneath in the event of a crash. Still IIHS testing found that a certain type of crash that involved the outer edge of those trailers could put people in greater danger.
"The typical underride guard is suspended from two vertical components hanging relatively near the center of the truck. That means that the part of the guard that sticks out toward the ends of the truck, doesn't have a lot of support," said David Zuby with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The good news for drivers is many trailer manufacturers have been installing underride guards that are even stronger than U.S. guidelines require. The number of people killed in accidents where a car hits the back of a truck has dropped over the last decade, but data does not track how many of these crashes specifically involved underride.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2011 one person was killed every two hours 54 minutes on Texas highways, many of those involved tractor trailers.