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Rear truck guards not strong enough, experts say

When traffic situations arise on the roads and highways of Alabama, there are times when drivers do not get adequate time to respond, colliding with the vehicle in front of them. Sometimes, also, a vehicle farther back may be the culprit, pushing a stationary car into the one ahead. When the frontmost vehicle is a large truck, the high clearance may be deadly to those who are in smaller cars.

According to the Truck Safety Coalition, passenger compartment intrusion is the effect of the rear of a tractor trailer entering the cabin of the car as the smaller vehicle goes under it in a rear-end collision. The steel guard that hangs below the trailer is designed to block this by catching the front end of the passenger vehicle. This stops the underride crash and allows the safety mechanisms such as crumple zones and air bags to do their job in preventing serious injury. The current standard for underride guards requires them to withstand an impact of 30 miles per hour.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently sponsored a discussion that included representatives of the trucking industry, safety advocates, lawmakers and researchers. One of the primary topics was the proposal to raise the strength level of the guards so that they can prevent an underride crash at speeds up to 35 miles per hour. Crash test results indicate that this improvement may be enough to keep the vehicle occupants from coming in contact with the truck. Although older trucks often do not have sufficient rear guards, many manufacturers recognize the urgency of this safety feature and are adopting the improved standards without waiting for new policies to take effect.

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