Weak big-rig rear guards pose decapitation risk to motorists

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Steel guards installed in the back of large commercial tractor trailers may pose significant danger to drivers of smaller vehicles, according to the results of crash tests conducted recently by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Researchers at the auto safety agency conducted more than 20 crash tests simulating an accident in which a smaller passenger vehicle rear ends guard-equipped trailers from manufacturers including Great Dane, Hyundai and Wabash. Of these trailers only the guard manufactured by the company Manac prevented the smaller passenger vehicle from sliding under the back end of the trailer, the dangerous scenario responsible for 250 motorist deaths in 2011, according to the institute.

When a vehicle slides under a tractor trailer at a high rate of speed, the driver and passengers are at a high risk of being decapitated, safety experts say, because the windshield becomes the main point of impact if the guard breaks or bends, quickly destroying the vehicle’s occupant compartment.

The institute, in a report released to the news media this week, suggested that these discouraging results are caused by the weak construction of most steel trailer guards.

In response the American Trucking Associations issued a statement emphasizing the importance of avoiding these types of collisions in the first place by educating drivers about proper behavior when sharing the road with a large commercial truck.

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