RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – More than 200 people die each year in the United States during crashes involving cars that slide underneath tractor trailers, according to government figures.
Now, a Raleigh engineer has come up with a device he said could prevent some of those deaths.
The crash test conducted at the North Carolina State Highway Patrol’s training center in Raleigh was five years in the making.
Its inventor has been looking for something that not only prevents underride crashes, but also satisfies the trucking industry.
“We’re trying to match crash performance with weight and cost,” Aaron Keifer said, the inventor of Safety Skirt truck Sideguard.
When a car collides with the side of a truck, the results are often fatal.
There are side barriers available for trucks, but the industry opposes them for a variety of reasons — including the fact that the barriers add too much weight and can structurally damage the trailer unit.
This test of the newly modified device was conducted at 35 miles an hour. Its inventor believes his lightweight safety skirt addresses the concerns of the trucking industry.
“You don’t want to put extra mass on a trailer if you don’t have to,” Keifer said.
Among those watching the test was Marianne Karth, who lost daughters Annaleah and Mary in an underride crash in 2013.
She said her first reaction when she saw the crash test was thankfulness.
“I knew it could be done, but until you test it you don’t know for sure,” she said.
By not going under the truck, the vehicle’s survival space in the passenger compartment remained undamaged.
“It was a complete success,” Keifer said. “The system worked as designed.”
Also among those monitoring the test was NCSHP’s truck safety unit.
“Just looking at it at first glance, it’s fairly effective,” First Sgt. Travis Ingold said.
Under the recently passed infrastructure bill, the United States Department of Transportation has been tasked with investigating under-ride crashes on trucks and it’ll look closely at devices like the Safety Skirt Sideguard.