The fatal crash of a Davidson County Sheriff’s officer is the latest accident to show that safety devices placed at the ends of tractor trailers can break.
The News 4 I-Team has been investigating underride guards since 2011, when Hendersonville newlywed Paul Warren died when his car slid underneath a semi, despite the truck having a steel safety barrier on the back.
In Warren’s case,and in others documented by the I-Team
, the steel bars either broke or bent, resulting in the death of someone in the front seats of the car.
The Davidson County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Officer Joseph Gilmore died Monday in a crash on Interstate 24 in Robertson County when his car slid underneath a semi.
The I-Team examined video of the crash, which appears to show that the underride guard broke and slid to the side of the truck as the car came underneath.
In a statement to the I-Team, THP spokesman Travis Plotzer emailed, “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.”
Plotzer did state that the investigator found no safety defect on the truck contributed to the cause of the crash.
While the federal government requires most tractor trailers to have rear underride guards, our investigation found that when hit in certain directions or at high speeds, the guards can break.
"Many of them do offer a false sense of protection,” said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The IIHS has long asked NHTSA to require stronger underride guards.
Rader said NHTSA continues to evaluate their request.
The I-Team asked Rader if drivers shouldn’t count on the underride guards to keep them alive in a crash.
“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,” Rader said.
The I-Team repeatedly reached out Tuesday to Xtra Lease, the company whose name is on the truck in Gilmore’s crash, but our calls were not returned.
It’s important to note it is unclear who manufactured the underride guard in all these crashes, as the safety bars are made my several companies.
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