A driver or passenger in a smaller vehicle involved in an accident in Pennsylvania with a tractor-trailer or other large truck faces the risk of serious injury or even death.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied truck underride and override crashes. An underride crash happens when a vehicle slides under a large truck. An override accident may occur when a large truck rides over a car. In either case, the impact may crush the passenger compartment of the vehicle.
Safety features may not prevent serious injury
Federal law requires that most large trucks have rear guards. These guards protect passenger vehicles by causing a vehicle to crash into the guard instead of sliding under the truck. However, these guards are not perfect. Rear guards on single-unit trucks do not need to meet crashworthiness standards. In addition, federal law does not require regular inspections of rear guards.
The law does not require trucks to have side or front guards.
Without proper guards to absorb the impact of a crash, an auto’s safety features may not protect occupants from serious injuries. Equipment such as shock-absorbing bumpers, crumple zone sensors and airbags may not work if a vehicle slides under the truck because of a missing or substandard guard.
Reports may not reflect true underride and override accident numbers
Crash investigators likely misreport the number of underride and override accidents. The GAO makes several recommendations to address these reporting deficiencies and improve safety:
- Rear guards should be subject to annual inspections for damage or defects.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) should standardize the definition of underride crashes. The DOT should also encourage consistent data collection by law enforcement.
- Transportation officials should research the effectiveness of side guards.
The GAO cautions that truck manufacturers may hesitate to develop side underride guards unless transportation safety officials outline standards and provide information about cost and effectiveness.