Between 1980 and 1990 approximately 5,000 people were killed when their car ran under the rear of a large truck. Another 180,000 suffered serious head injuries. Most transportation safety experts now agree that rear impact underride guards on large trucks must be improved.
The rear impact protection device in use on most trucks on U.S. highways was developed in the early 1950's. It consists of the T-shaped metal bar that we commonly see extending down from the trailer bed on big rigs.
Unfortunately, these underride bars are too high from the ground to protect people in today's smaller cars and too weak to prevent their cars from sliding beneath the truck. When the trailer bed shears off the top half of the car, the car's occupants are often decapitated. For this reason, critics describe them as "roving guillotines" on our public highways.
Citizens For Reliable And Safe Highways (CRASH) is campaigning for truck underride crash protection which adopts safety technology already in use in Britain and Europe. CRASH wants trucks to be equipped with simple, energy-absorbing "rear impact guards" that extend an adequate distance down from the trailer to cushion the force of impact with modern cars. CRASH has opened a toll-free hotline (1-800-CRASH-1-2) to provide citizens with more information about the truck underride hazard and what can be done about it.
For large trucks usually priced around $100,000, the more advanced British energy-absorbing guard costs approximately $200. This is roughly equal to the cost of the AM/FM radios that are standard equipment in most of these trucks.