The driver of a Tesla Model S who died May 7 when his car on autopilot drove under the side of a tractor trailer may have lived if the truck he hit had been equipped with side underride guards, according to media reports.
Tesla noted in a press release after the crash that the ride height of the trailer, combined with its unusual position across the road in the middle of a left turn, caused the car to go under the trailer with the bottom of the trailer tearing off the windshield of the Tesla.
This story has been big news mainly because the Tesla driver died while the car was on autopilot. However, it should be noted that this was just another side impact collision with a tractor trailer that resulted in death. At least 240 people die annually due to side underride collisions. Because the sides of the trailer are so high, the air bags and safety features of most car are useless. In these crashes, the car driver usually is decapitated.
In 2014, the NTSB wrote to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, requesting that side underride guards be required on trailers. At this point, the trucking industry has not responded, other than to say that adding sideguards would increase weight, hurt fuel economy, and the body of the trailers would not support them.
However, most trucks in Europe already have sideguards, which has led to fewer fatalities, and in reality, fuel consumption has been reduced with the added safety features.
Our truck crash attorneys have seen far too many people hurt and lives lost to truck accidents. We always support any effort that could reduce the thousands of accidents and fatalities each year involving tractor trailers. Tell families who have lost loved ones or were severely injured in truck crashes that the cost benefit analysis found that improving truck safety was not worth the cost!