Semitrailer trucks are scary things. We likely all know people who, when caught next to a huge 18-wheeler on a Georgia highway, get jittery to the point of having to do something to get out of the big-rig's shadow. Usually the tactic is to pass and get in front of the truck.
Based on our experience helping victims who have suffered serious injury or the loss of a loved one in a truck accident, that might be a good idea. Dropping back to follow a truck could expose you to what some consider to be a considerable hazard to automobile safety -- a truck's rear guard, also known as its underride guard.
If you drive, you know what they are. They're the girder-like structures that hang down from the rear of large trucks. Their main purpose is to help save lives by preventing cars from slipping under the back of the trailer in the event of a collision.
They've been mandated on trucks since 1953, but the standards for how they're constructed haven't changed since then. And, as a recent report on the issue by Bloomberg suggests, that has resulted in far more fatal truck accidents than might have happened if standards were improved.
Making matters worse is research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that suggests that one slight redesign would go a long way toward fixing the problem, and it would cost only about $100 per truck to implement.
Federal officials say they are looking at updating the regulations, but representatives for the trucking industry are balking. They say new regulations focusing on crash-avoidance technology or better education for all drivers would be more effective.
Stories abound about companies opting to forgo inexpensive safety improvements because cost-benefit analyses say they're not worth the money. Insurance companies operate in much the same way when accidents occur. To be sure your rights are protected in an accident, it's best to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.