Rear underride guards on the back of tractor-trailers and other large vehicles are critical safety devices that are meant to protect motorists from being crushed or decapitated in a collision with the back of a truck.
But as important as these devices are for all motorists on the road, there is plenty of grisly evidence to show that tougher rules and standards are needed to govern the strength and functionality of rear underride guards.
One of the latest examples is the fatal crash of Davidson County, Tennessee, Sheriff’s officer Joseph Gilmore. Officer Gilmore was killed on New Year’s Day on I-24 when his car collided with the back of a tractor-trailer and slid underneath the vehicle.
According to Nashville’s WSMV News 4, which has been documenting rear-underride crashes since 2011, video of Officer Gilmore’s crash shows that the rear-underride guard did not hold up on impact. News 4 reports that “the underride guard broke and slid to the side of the truck as the car came underneath.”
In a statement to News 4, Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesman Travis Plotzer said that “The bumper did break away from the frame on the left side, specifically at the center of impact. The force of impact was too great for the bumper to withstand.”
Oddly, the rear underride’s inability to withstand a collision as it’s supposed to do isn’t considered a safety defect or violation. Throughout the country, people continued to be killed in rear-underride crashes with tractor trailers equipped with guards that break upon impact, especially when struck in certain directions or at high speed.
While safety advocates and families of victims are pushing for tougher underride guard regulations, including a side-underride mandate, they face a steep uphill battle with the Trump Administration’s staunch anti-regulation stance.
Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), one of the leading advocates of better underride guard rules, told News 4 that rear-underride guards offer people “a false sense of protection: We know that many of the underride guards out on the road are too weak to prevent under ride. We know that these guards could be stronger.”