The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finalized its new rear underride rule this week. The new rule will require that rear underride guards have enough strength to prevent the worst of this type of accident. Intended to reduce fatalities on the road, critics say the new rule doesn’t go far enough.
Rear underride crashes occur when a smaller vehicle like a four-door sedan crashes into the back of a semi-trailer. These crashes are often deadly because the smaller vehicle tends to slide under the larger trailer. This bypasses most standard crash safety protections for these vehicles, making death more common.
The NHTSA also announced various other underride provisions. The agency is establishing a federal regulatory committee to develop further legislation regarding rear underride guards. It will also be collecting and analyzing more data on crashes involving rear underride to improve their safety standards further.
The Biden Administration has made traffic safety a priority as it works towards zero traffic deaths. Over 500 people died on American highways in 2019 when their vehicles rear-ended semi-trucks. This rule will hopefully prevent a significant number of deaths.
Critics say rear underride rule doesn’t go far enough
Though the rule is a step towards greater safety on the road, critics are decrying the new rule. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety released a statement after the rule’s announcement expressing disappointment. The rule, they say, is already met by around 94% of semi-trailers, meaning that the rule will not produce any meaningful change. Indeed, the new rule is less restrictive than the one used by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to rate rear underride guards. IIHS has been using their standard for five years.
Basically, the critics of the new rule say that it makes compliance too easy for trucking companies. Because there are no major changes for most carriers, this rule won’t make any substantial headway towards making our roads safer. Critics like AHAS hope that the new committee the NHTSA is forming will help push regulations further in the future.