There are some situations when we want the market to guide how things unfold and others when governmental intervention is wise. The seatbelt is one example. The requirement that vehicles include and those in a car use a seatbelt is one with benefits that outweigh the risk of too much government involvement.
Some believe the government should get more involved when it comes to truck safety. For example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an independent nonprofit scientific and educational organization focused on increasing the safety of our nation’s roadways, has called out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for failing to take appropriate action to reduce the risk of catastrophic trucking accidents. The nonprofit claims the federal organization falls short because it did not go far enough when requiring trucks update their underride guards.
What are underride guards?
Underride guards are steel bars that attach to the back of a semi-truck. They prevent vehicles from going underneath the truck in the event of a crash. We have decades of research that show the dangers of these accidents, and the role a relatively simple addition can play in reducing this risk.
How serious are these accidents?
The NHTSA estimates more than 400 people died in underride crashes in 2021 alone. As if this number was not high enough, officials admit that due to flaws in the data gathering system, the number is likely an underestimate.
The crashes are often deadly because an underride accident can result in impact in an area that does not trigger safety mechanisms like an airbag. This, along with the fact that the vehicle continues its momentum underneath the semi instead of getting stopped by a steel bar, means the force of the crash often enters the cabin of the car, injuring occupants.
How can we reduce the risk of these accidents?
There is significant push for an expansion of current regulation, such as the addition of side guards to offer further protection. Although the federal government has taken some steps in the right direction, critics argue they have not done enough.
The federal government is not the only one that can help reduce these accidents. Truck companies can also do their part by adding these guards on their own, without federal oversite. They could also ensure all vehicles have working lights to increase the truck’s visibility and train their drivers to operate the vehicles in a safe manner.
Unfortunately, these accidents often have tragic results. Those who have experienced or lost a loved one to this type of trucking accident may be able to hold the truck driver and the trucking company accountable for their loss through a civil lawsuit. This can result in a monetary award to help cover the expenses and missed wages related to the accident as well as provide an opportunity to hold the trucking industry responsible for their failure to keep the roadways safe.