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Crash tests show semitrailer side guards would save lives

(KIRO 7 screengrab)

By Alison Grande, KIRO 7

Crash test video from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety shows the devastating impact when a car slams into the side of a semitrailer: The car goes all the way underneath.

In real life, those crashes are usually fatal.

–In Lynnwood last July, an SUV full of teens slammed into the front of a parked semitrailer, killing three of them.

–The teens were students at Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek.

–In Spruce Pine, North Carolina, Tim Whitson survived a horrific crash in October 2015.

“I lost so much blood, I don’t remember much,” said Tim Whitson.

Whitson’s pickup was buried under a semi trailer two years ago. He suffered brain injuries, cuts and two broken legs. He has metal rods in his legs and had to learn to walk again.

KIRO 7 went through the statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and found 301 people died in the U.S. in side crashes with tractor-trailers in 2015.

There is a way to keep vehicles from getting pinned under the side of a semitrailer, by using side underride guards. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety put the guards to the test. Every time, the side underride guard kept the car from going all the way under, protecting the driver.

Side underride guards are mandatory in many other countries and are saving lives. Some cities have created ordinances requiring the side guards on city vehicles. Seattle is one of them.

On Friday, SDOT showed off the guards it has installed on more than a dozen trucks.

Rodney Whitson, Tim’s father, says it’s time for local and national lawmakers to take action and make the side underride guards mandatory on all semitrucks.

“I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to go through what me and my family went through,” said Rodney Whitson.

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