ARLINGTON, VA — (WWJ) New evidence that those “underride guards” that have been on the back of 18 wheelers for about a decade now can save lives, in some crashes. But, a new round of crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway safety show that there is room for improvement.
“The latest round of testing shows, yeah, they are doing a pretty good job in some conditions,” says institute research chief David Zuby. “But in other conditions, there’s room for improvement.”
Interview: Jeff Gilbert talks with David Zuby from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Those guards, as their name implies, prevent cars from sliding underneath large trucks, a type of crash that has a very high fatality rate.
Zuby says their crash tests show that the guards protect best in a direct hit from the rear. They offer less protection when the car strikes the rear of the truck from an angle.
In 2011, 260 of the 2,241 passenger vehicle occupants killed in large truck crashes died when the fronts of their vehicles struck the rears of trucks. That’s down from 460 out of 3,693 in 2004. The Institute says the decline is likely due in part to changes in both truck and passenger vehicle traffic resulting from the weak economy.
The Insurance Institute did a series of tests simulating a Chevy Malibu striking a parked truck at 35 miles per hour. The Malibu was chosen because it is a strong selling mid-size car, and a “top safety pick.”
Zuby says there’s little that carmakers can to do protect occupants in this type of collision, that most of the protection has to come from equipment on the truck to prevent the vehicle from underriding.
The Insurance Institute has turned its data over to government regulators.
“We’ve asked the government to consider improving the standard to move us in that direction,” says Zuby. “In the meantime, we hope that trailer manufacturers start copying the designs that work.”
Canada’s standards are tougher than those in the United States. Zuby says many truck manufacturers have voluntarily adopted the Canadian standards.
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