Preventing deadly crashes doesn’t require Either crash avoidance Or underride guards but Both/And.

If we can take away anything immediately (while waiting for an in-depth investigative report) from Joshua Brown’s fatal crash with his Tesla, I hope it is the understanding that preventing Death by Underride cannot depend solely on crash avoidance technology. What we should be going for is not either/or but both/and.

The Tesla did not prevent the crash because the side of the truck was too high up to engage/connect with any of the safety technology. Had a side guard — which is not a federal requirement — been on the truck, there might have been no crash or at least no underride. Joshua Brown might still be alive.

This is a clear case where even the most-advanced crash avoidance technology was not able to prevent a tragic underride death. If side guards had been mandated and installed, perhaps the outcome would have been quite different.

There are too many factors and conditions which can result in a collision between a large truck and a smaller passenger vehicle. And without adequate underride protection, the smaller vehicle is going to end up under the larger, too-high truck so that the crashworthy features of the car do not function as intended. The truck then comes into the occupant space [Passenger Compartment Intrusion = PCI] — causing horrific death or serious injuries.

My goodness, it makes me mad just to re-read the posts which I have written over the last three years since our deadly (for those who experienced underride) crash and recall the ongoing attitude of non-responsibility of some parts of the trucking industry to do their part in helping to solve this solvable problem!

I have included the links to those posts along with the beginning paragraphs:

  1. Clarifying the ATA Position on Underride Guards After last week’s announcement by NHTSA of their initiation of the rulemaking process for underride guards, I have had four interviews. So far, I have seen two of the articles and both of them included a statement, obtained from the American Trucking Associations (ATA), which disturbed me when I read them. I posted about it and you can read my thoughts here. . .
  2. The Passion of This Safety Advocate It gets really tiresome to hear the trucking industry come up with the same statements time after time after time. Nearly every time I read an article written about our crash, there are the obligatory responses from the trucking industry. Invariably, they try to shift the responsibility off of themselves to make the changes sought after and, instead, bring up some alternative solution to the “problem.” . . .
  3. Truck Underride Roundtable is one week away! May it be sehr gut! On June 25, 2014, after a tour of the research & design center of a truck trailer manufacturer in Georgia, I wrote down these perplexing thoughts about the too-long unresolved underride problem: Now, it is understandable, amid the multitude of demands and the tyranny of the urgent, that—without a ready solution, in fact, one which would require time and money to develop—this problem has not been given much attention. But, if those who bear responsibility for making sure that this problem gets solved (one way or another) had lost two of their beloved children—or any other loved one—I can guarantee you that they would have moved heaven and earth to find a way to prevent underride. . .
  4. UMTRI Reviews Opposition to Proposed & Proven Truck Underride Prevention Measures Back in 1989, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute examined features proposed for improving truck safety. In other words, they reviewed NHTSA underride rulemaking from years past. What they discovered was that a proposed underride rule in 1977 was opposed by practically “the entire trucking industry – both manufacturers and haulers.” The authors of this study noted “that failure to implement a rule on underride guards took place despite extensive research indicating their expected effectiveness.” .  .
  5. Tesla crash fatality could have been stopped by side guards. Tell NHTSA to require them on trucks. The U.S. has been talking about the tragedies of side underride and the possibility of using side guards on trucks since 1969. The recent Tesla S underride crash fatality could quite likely have been prevented if there had been a side guard on the tractor-trailer it collided with.So why is NHTSA still not requiring side guards on trucks? Why is the trailer manufacturing industry still opposing them? Why have so many years gone by with needless, preventable deaths continuing to occur? . . .

When we met with DOT in March 2016 to deliver our 20,000+ Vision Zero Petition signatures, Blair Anderson (NHTSA Deputy Administrator at the time,  now US DOT Undersecretary for Policy) smiled when I made the point about not either/or but both/and. He indicated that the Director had just been talking with staff about that very thing.

Let’s hope that this logical line of reasoning is widely understood and serves the purpose of moving both rulemaking and voluntary industry safety advancement full steam ahead.

Both And

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