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Kevin Ransom has an interesting article on startling statistics regarding fatal auto-truck accidents: many of the accidents involve cars hitting the back of trucks, and the car occupants being killed because the rear-bumper protector ("underride guard") on the truck simply isn’t preventing the car cabin from being crushed:

In 2009, 70 percent of the 3,163 people who died in all large truck crashes were occupants of cars or other passenger vehicles, Lund said. In many of these crashes, the upper part of a passenger vehicle’s cabin was crushed when the body of the truck or trailer smashed through the vehicle’s safety cage.

The way passenger cars are designed, if you crash into another passenger car, the front-end structures can withstand and distribute a tremendous amount of crash energy, in a way that minimizes injuries for vehicle occupants," says [Adrian Lund, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety president]. "But hitting the back of a large truck is a totally different situation. Your vehicle could be one that earns top marks in frontal crash tests, but if that truck’s underride guard fails — or if the truck doesn’t have one at all — your chances of walking away from even a relatively low-speed crash are not good at all."

This seems pretty straightforward: a simple change to big-rig trucks could save many lives.

But reading the comments section of the article reveals that many, many people were outraged by the idea that the trucks (and the truck drivers) are seen as the danger, rather than careless driving. They may have a point.

The article, titled “Semi Crashes Still Proving Fatal,” sports a photo of the front of a semi-truck bearing down on the reader:

Picture from article showing big-rig truck bearing down on the reader

This no doubt leaves some of the people who see the article thinking, “trucks must be killing car drivers.” But many truck drivers are incredibly careful drivers who take safety very seriously. They have to be—their lives, and their jobs, and the lives of the drivers around them, are on the line. And in reality, the article was about cars hitting trucks, not the other way around.

But there are careless drivers—whether truck or car drivers. We recently obtained a multi-million dollar judgment against a trucking company and driver that broke a lot of rules, falsified documents, and ended up killing a number of people. But this one company, and single driver, aren’t representative of the entire industry, just like a bad doctor who carelessly injures someone isn’t representative of the thousands of great doctors helping people every day. Despite the efforts of insurance companies to make it seem like it is “doctors versus lawyers,” or “truckers versus car drivers,” the fact is that we should all support safety, and one way to do that is to support the people who take care in their work. They deserve our respect, and I for one think most people feel the same way.

To the extent that the truck drivers commenting on the article feel attacked, I think they have a point. But they should also understand that a simple change that could save lives should be embraced, and that’s exactly what a better underride guard would do. We’re all on the same team: more safety, fewer injuries, holding the careless people responsible to get them off the road, or out of the operating room, to protect everyone. Including the careful drivers and doctors, who help keep us all safe, every day.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments section, below.


  1. Bill: This is a Great Post! You are correct in your observation that truckers are not always the cause of an automobile/semi truck accident. Size does not necessarily determine fault; negligence does. I like your comparisons that assist in driving this point home. It would be unfair to say they are all wrongdoings are caused by a single industry/profession (in this case "truckers").

    As my readers know, I often post about safety issues. In fact, on March 7, I, too, wrote about underride guards. Although an accident may be due to the carelessness and negligence of the passenger vehicle, the fact is that trucks can be made safer by a simple preventative measure such as a stronger underride guard. Since passenger vehicles are at the mercy of big rigs (they don't stand a chance) when the two meet accidentally, it makes sense to me, regardless of who is at fault in a particular accident, that truck manufacturers use any and every safety device available to them to protect their drivers, and the passenger car drivers and passengers they collide with, from serious injury and/or death. And, since big rig drivers are the "professionals" in these encounters, I believe that they have a 'special' responsibility. Thanks again for the fine post.

  2. Gravatar for William Eadie

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Mark. I agree that professional drivers, like truck drivers, know more and need to take precautions that can save lives, especially when it is this easy.

    You can read Mark's informative article on the dangers of some types of under-ride guards here:

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