No one starts out their day believing that they’ll be involved in an auto collision before making it back to their home, but sadly, since there are around 30,000 motor vehicle fatalities every year, and countless more non-fatal accidents, many people are wrong in this assumption.
There’s no denying, though, that there are certain accidents that can increase a person’s risk of becoming part of the fatality statistic. Accidents involving tractor-trailer trucks, for instance, have the capability of seriously injuring or killing someone in a passenger vehicle. For those involved in “underride” accidents, this risk is even greater.
Underride Accidents and Big Rigs
There are numerous accidents every year involving big rigs, and just about any incident can lead to death. Sadly, a full 25 percent of all fatal trucking accidents occur due to underride collisions. These accidents happen when a vehicle, whose windshield is often right on level with the bottom of the tractor-trailer, crash into the larger vehicle and go under it. Unfortunately, the top of a car isn’t designed to handle high impacts into something as solid as a semi-truck.
Fortunately, these large trucks are required to have underride guards installed which are meant to prevent vehicles from going under them. However, if a vehicle hits a semi-truck at an awkward angle, it can still go under. Additionally, hundreds of deaths are attributed to weak guards each and every year.
What’s Being Done
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has continuously been fighting to increase safety for passenger vehicles that crash into big rigs. They actually petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require stronger guards to be used.
Unfortunately, the NHTSA hasn’t yet done this, but many trucking companies are actually doing it on their own. While it may seem as if this is a goodwill attempt to protect others, it may have more to do with the fact that Canada has required these standards for years.
The federal government sets rules and regulations for commercial driving companies. This doesn’t mean, however, that some states don’t at least try to ensure that truck drivers stay safe on their roads and thus reduce the chances of an accident.
In Missouri, for instance, the state has actually compiled an entire manual for truckers to read, if they are to travel through the area. This manual lists a variety of safety and legal regulations in the state, but regrettably, this won’t always prevent trucking accidents. If one does occur, however, and the trucker is at fault, the driver in the passenger vehicle will at least have some legal recourse.
It’s safe to say, “A collision with a tractor trailer means a fight against powerful insurance and trucking companies…” according to Cofman Townsley, truck accident lawyer in St Louis.
There are a variety of methods that a driver can use to stay safe when around commercial drivers.
- The first is to avoid blind spots. A truck that is merging or changing lanes may not see a vehicle in one of these spots and can easily cause an underride collision. The blind spots on a semi-truck include the right side near the front and near the rear. Additionally, being near the center of the left side of a merging truck can be dangerous as well.
- Leave plenty of room on all sides of a commercial truck. These vehicles make very wide turns, and they may have to employ big maneuvers to accomplish what passenger vehicles can easily do.
- Never make sudden stops when a truck is following closely. These larger vehicles cannot stop as quickly or maneuver as easily to avoid an accident, so if it comes down to running over a rabbit or getting wedged under the front of a tractor-trailer, it’s best to just say goodbye to Thumper.
Big rig accidents present some of the most detrimental collisions faced on America’s highways every single year, and if a person falls victim to a weak or improperly positioned underride guard, their likelihood of survival can seriously drop.
Fortunately, there are organizations working to make these guards safer, and until their dream comes to fruition, people can reduce their chances of falling victim by simply driving safely around these large vehicles and avoiding dangerously-driving truckers whenever possible.
Jamica Bell is a freelance writer and regular contributor for numerous blogs. Upon hearing of an increase of underride accidents, she was inspired to inform the public of this danger. During her research, she obtained helpful information from the firm of Cofman Townsley, truck accident lawyer in St Louis, which was very useful in determining just how serious this type of accident can be.