Insurance Institute pushes for stronger truck guards

Contact 5 Investigation

On Thursday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. released a series of new crash test videos depicting the dangers of underride guards.

"When an underride guard fails it's a devastating crash," said David Zuby, the chief research officer at the institute.

The videos are the latest images driving home a deadly message.

"Our new research shows trailer manufacturers are fitting trailers with underride guards better designed to prevent this, but some manufacturers still have some work to do," said Zuby.

Underride guards are required on most big trucks.  Its purpose is to keep drivers from sliding underneath a truck or semi in the event of a rear end collision. 

Since 2010, the Insurance Institute has conducted crash tests to show how current US standards for underride truck guards aren't strong enough.

It's been 12 years, since a weak underride guard left Siene Eberhardt  a widow.

Her husband, Donald Eberhardt Jr. was a Rivera Beach police officer when he crashed into the back of a semi illegally parked on Blue Heron Road. 

"The last time I saw him, he was wearing his uniform for work that day," she said.

At the time of the crash, Eberhardt was driving under 33 mph.  Regardless, the underride guard collapsed upon impact.

Eberhardt Jr, who was a father of two at the time of the accident, never had a chance.  He died when the top of his car was ripped off.

"All I see is him under that truck," Siene Eberhardt told the Contact 5 Investigators last year.

In the new crash tests, the Insurance Institute crashed cars going 35 mph into the back of trucks. 

But the trucks, in this latest series of tests, were equipped with underride guards that meet Canadian standards, which are tougher, more energy absorbent and stay intact upon impact.

"If the guard stays intact, the censor in our dummies are telling us that the risk of a life threatening injury is very, very low," explained Zuby.  The Institute is continuing its push asking the federal government to adopt Canadian standards for underride guards.

David Strickland, an Administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which governs underride guard standards, sent the Contact 5 Investigators the following statement: 

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is deeply committed to improving safety and reducing the number of deaths and injuries on our roadways, including those involving large trucks. The agency is actively working to improve truck underride protection and recently completed an in-depth field analysis -which was published yesterday- to support potential changes to existing federal safety standards. The driving public should know that we are actively working to address the issues raised in IIHS's report and that their safety will always be our top priority."

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