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Tractor trailer fatality re-ignites debate about safety guards

Semi-trucks traveling at freeway speeds constitute a significant safety hazards for smaller automobiles. Occasionally, even when fully stopped, big rigs can be a significant safety risk. A truck accident in Fairfax County involving a semi-truck and a sedan demonstrates the safety hazards posed by big rigs and has re-ignited a debate about the need for crash protectors on the rear ends of these large vehicles.

A Fairfax family began its Thanksgiving Day not by meeting their son at the door, but by meeting two highway patrol officers who were there to inform the family that the son had been killed in a collision with a parked semi-truck. The young man was on his way home after a reunion with friends at about 3:30 a.m. when he collided with a semi that had stopped and pulled to the side of the freeway. Friends told police that he may have fallen asleep at the wheel. He was killed by trauma to his head caused by hitting the semi's underside carriage.

The trailers pulled by semis have a heavy duty steel frame that supports the box. The frame is at approximately the same height as the head of anyone driving a passenger automobile. In an underside collision, the smaller passenger vehicle becomes wedged under the steel carriage. The collision can crush or decapitate the people in the passenger vehicle. All semi-trailers are required to have steel guards that prevent smaller vehicles from crashing into the undercarriage, but many trucks carry old, outdated guards that do not possess sufficient strength to prevent an undercarriage collision. Various safety advocacy groups have pressed regulators to require heavier guards, but the trucking industry has resisted. It says that requiring heavier guards would require them to reduce payloads and, thereby, generate lower revenues.

Anyone who has been injured or lost a loved one in an underside collision may wish to consult a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer for an evaluation of the evidence and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages.

Source: WUSA9, "Va. family grieves after man killed in Thanksgiving underride crash," Eric Flack, Dec. 5, 2017

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