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Tougher rules wanted for big-rig crash guards

March 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety wants new safety standards put in place for underride guards on tractor-trailers after seeing new crash tests.

New crash tests show that a safety standard required on big-rig trucks is not working to protect lives. Hundreds of people in passenger cars are killed each year when the vehicle slams into the back of a big rig and slides under the trailer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, also known as NHTSA, has estimated that more than 400 people in passenger vehicles die each year when their vehicles strike the backs of large trucks and trailers, and another 5,000 are injured.

The impact guard on a tractor-trailer fails to stay in place when a passenger car strikes it, and the car and driver slide under the trailer. That can cause decapitation.

In Canada the standard is much tougher than in the U.S. The guard holds up on a straight-on crash, but if the car catches the end of the barrier the Canadian guard fails too.

So the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says a new standard needs to be put in place, and the trucking industry agrees. But it's up to the manufacturers of the trailers to make the improvements. Without new regulations they have little incentive to make those changes.