In the “About” section of their website, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims that the agency is “responsible for keeping people safe on America’s roadways.”
Critics, specifically the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, are finding the NHTSA’s efforts falling short, particularly when it comes to significantly underestimating lives that could be saved with underride guard mandates for large trucks.
Underride crashes are particularly frightening, with smaller vehicles partially or completely sliding underneath 18-wheelers. Current regulations require guards on the rear of trucks but not on their sides.
Seeking a solution
The NHTSA is seeking comments on the preliminary cost-benefit analysis. Current predictions on the price tag of equipping large trucks throughout the nation are in the $1 billion range while preventing 17 deaths and 69 serious injuries annually.
What needs to be added to their analysis are crashes with more than just a single passenger and tractor-trailer. Also absent are accidents where speeds exceed 40 miles per hour. Additionally, velocity changes collected from event data recorders were replaced by speed limits and pre-crash speeds estimated by law enforcement.
Other methodologies saw 159 to 217 passenger vehicle occupant fatalities prevented every year. However, that estimation comes from mandated projections forward of the rear axle or the trailer’s side. Also missing are the statistics involving pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists who would typically suffer fatal injuries yet could still avoid the horror of this type of accident with tractor-trailers.
The continuing resistance of side underride guards continues to baffle experts. Meanwhile, on roads throughout the nation, all types of vehicle operators are at risk of severe injuries and deaths.