After the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released their news about side underride crash testing, I began searching online for media reports on the results of their dynamic crash testing of a collision into the side of a trailer with and without a guard.
Among other things, I found — in at least one article — explanations from the IIHS and a reaction from the American Trucking Associations (ATA):
“Avoiding the crash in the first place is even more effective than trying to manage the impact of a crash,” he said.
Read more here: ‘These crashes are catastrophic.’ The deadly impact of truck underride crashes, Patrick Terpstra, Cox Media Group Washington News Bureau, May 10, 2017
Sean McNally, as spokesman for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), is also quoted in another recent article:
The American Trucking Associations said the industry hasn’t come to an agreement on guardrails because they require trade-offs, including added weight. Side guardrails require stiffer trailers that can develop cracks in their frames, which presents another safety risk, ATA spokesman Sean McNally said.
McNally said the trucking industry wants to avoid crashes in the first place, and is supporting efforts to deploy safety technology like automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning systems. Electronic logging devices, which track truckers’ driving and will be required by the end of this year, will also help to prevent crashes, he said.
“It’s important to recognize that all crashes are tragedies, but we also need to recognize that these guards are collision mitigation — and not collision avoidance — equipment and ATA’s primary safety goal is to prevent crashes,” McNally said. Safety group says truck guard rails could prevent deaths, Dee-Ann Durbin, AP Auto writer, Detroit, May 10, 2017
I have some questions for Sean McNally, as a representative of the ATA, but also for anyone else who might share his stated concerns:
- Have you seen the specifications for the AngelWing side guards, including weight and installation requirements?
- Have you spoken with (Perry Ponder) the designer and (Airflow Deflector) the manufacturer of the AngelWing side guard? I have.
- Have you considered that concerns about added weight can be addressed innovatively? For example, Stoughton Trailers was able to creatively engineer a way to offer stronger rear guards at no added cost or weight penalty to their customers (a guard which, I might add, has already saved at least one life!). Likewise, side guards used in conjunction with side skirts can offer fuel savings/efficiency to trucking companies.
- Upon what are you basing your conclusion that the Angel Wing side guards require stiffer trailers — which you say can cause cracks in the frame rails of trailers?
- You said, “Avoiding the crash in the first place is even more effective than trying to manage the impact of a crash.” I assume that you are inferring that crash avoidance technology is more effective at saving lives than underride protection. Do you draw the same conclusion about other safety countermeasures, including air bags, seat belts, and crush zones in cars, as well as rear underride guards? Are you suggesting that it is not advisable to use available (and/or to develop new) safety countermeasures to protect occupants of passenger vehicles, as well as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists?
- Is it necessary to choose either one or the other strategy to save lives, i.e., either crash avoidance or occupant protection? Why would we not proceed with both/and?
- I would also like you to clarify your statement that “ATA’s primary safety goal is to prevent crashes.” Just what does that mean anyway? Does that mean it is your only safety goal? Does that mean that you are unwilling to take whatever steps are necessary/possible in order to preserve life and health when a crash does occur?
- You made the statement that “all crashes are tragedies.” What is your definition of a tragedy? I think that it must differ from my definition of a tragedy. I do not agree that every crash is a tragedy. A “totaled” vehicle is not a tragedy. A life ended or a life permanently altered by physical injuries — especially when that outcome could have been prevented — that is a tragedy.
- I was in the horrific truck crash which killed my daughters, AnnaLeah and Mary. Because the truck’s rear underride guard was not effective in preventing underride, the truck entered my daughters’ occupant space and caused them to suffer fatal injuries. But, unlike them, I survived because the truck did not enter my occupant space.
- It was not the initial collision of our car with the truck which caused my daughters to die. It was underride which caused the “Second Collision” of the truck with their innocent, unprotected bodies.
- Therefore, to say that every crash is a tragedy is a misleading statement. Words are important. Words have power. Let’s make sure that our words are accurate — based on facts and truth — because those words may well shape the beliefs and decisions of those who have the authority to take actions which could prevent future tragedies.
Really, sorting out this decades-old dilemma can be whittled down to answering a simple question. Will we choose to:
- continue to allow underride deaths?
- act responsibly and compassionately to prevent these tragedies?
It is my fervent hope that any confusion or misconceptions will be appropriately addressed and cleared up and that the excellent research, undertaken by the IIHS to verify the underride problem and its solutions, will aid us all in working out together a more humane way to protect vulnerable road users.