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Jonesboro, Arkansas

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Paul N. Ford
Paul N. Ford
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Underride: An Unknown Danger

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As we drive the highways of our state and nation, we come into contact over and over again with a great danger….vehicle underride. I am referring to the danger posed by tractor-trailers by the lack of underride protection. Underride is the common name in the legal arena to describe when a passenger vehicle crashes into a tractor-trailer and, due to the height of the "car" and the "trailer" , the passenger vehicle is crushed under the trailer.

The resulting damages are always serious and many times fatal because their is insufficient protection to prevent impact in the passenger compartment. Countless dollars are invested in safety design by automakers to protect us inside the passenger compartment. The progress in safety has been tremendous. However, it is based upon bumper heights of vehicles. Not when vehicles come into contact with tractor trailers whose side rails have no bumper or guard whatsoever.

The danger of underride collisions has been known for years. Yet only recently have the safety regulations applicable to tractor trailers addressed this serious problem. And unfortunately, the regulations only address part of the known problem. Current federal regulations require trailers to be equipped with a REAR underride guard. They act much like a bumper to prevent rear underride collisions.

Yet, despite the advance in regulations and safety design, the problem still exists. Although design technology allows for side underride guards, federal regulations do not require them. These guards are in use in other parts of the world, including Europe and parts of South America. Tragically, trucking companies and the manufacturers of the trailers know of the dangers, and because they are not required to install them by federal regulation, they chose not to implement them.

Further advancements in regulations need to be made part of the public discourse. Safety devices should be implemented when available at a reasonable cost and without compromising the overall effectiveness and safety of the transportation industry. Moreover, additional regulations need to be implemented regarding reflectors and reflective tape to improve overall visibility of these traveling dangers. More on that subject to come!