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Placing Side Guard Rails on 18-Wheelers Will Help Reduce the Number of Highway Fatalities

In 2015, 301 passenger vehicle occupants were killed when colliding with the side of an 18-wheeler’s trailer. This has led to the call for side guard rails, which are aimed at preventing deaths caused by side-impact collisions with trailers.

Federal law requires 18-wheelers to have rear underride guards, which prevent cars from traveling underneath the trucks in the event of a rear-impact accident with a trailer. However, the law does not require side guards, designed to prevent cars going underneath 18-wheelers from the side.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that tractor-trailers with side guard rails mounted between the tires are less likely to be involved in fatal crashes. Moreover, the Institute claims that side guard rails could prevent hundreds of traffic deaths per year in the United States alone. Nonetheless, the trucking industry maintains that developing preventative crash technology to avoid crashes in the first place is a better use of resources. Why not do both?

The American Trucking Association has cited to certain trade-offs as a barrier to any agreement on requiring side guard safety rails. Not only does the Association reference added weight issues, but it also notes that trailers equipped with side guard rails are generally stiffer, which can lead to frame fractures over time.

Sean McNally, the spokesman for the Association, recently stated that the trucking industry is committed to accident avoidance and that the industry is supporting this effort through the advancement of safety technology, such as automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning systems. He further stated that collision avoidance altogether is the Association’s primary safety goal; not the deployment of collision mitigation equipment (i.e. side guard safety rails).

Collision avoidance should continue to be on the forefront of the trucking industry’s concerns, but so also should the present safety of highway motorists. Technology may indeed advance to the point where accidents can be avoided altogether, but at what cost to the public in the time that it takes to reach that point? Much like underride guards have become the norm, so too should side guards while the industry simultaneously seeks to strengthen its accident avoidance mechanisms.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a motor vehicle accident or due to a collision caused by an 18-wheeler, contact an experienced attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or toll free at 800-594-4884.


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