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:
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.