Why Are Underride Accidents So Deadly?

Why Are Underride Accidents So Deadly?A collision with a big-rig or semi-truck can lead to severe injuries. While any truck accident is serious, certain types of collisions are more likely to be fatal, or lead to permanent injury. One such accident is an underride collision.

Underride accidents occur when a passenger vehicle collides with the side or rear trailer of a large truck and slides underneath it.  Rear underride accidents often occur when a truck suddenly stops or slows down, and the car behind it can’t stop in time, causing it to go under the truck’s trailer from the back. Side underride crashes often occur while a truck is turning, or if it jackknifes suddenly. The risk of fatality is great because of something called Passenger Compartment Intrusion (PCI). When the impact occurs, the smaller vehicle is quite literally sliced at the level of the truck’s shipping container. Decapitation and crushing injuries are both possible and common. Those who do survive often sustain life-altering injuries which leave them permanently disabled.

With standardized underride guards, PCI would not occur. These accidents are disturbing, gruesome tragedies and each one of them, for the past 40 years, could have been prevented with proper legislation.

How can underride guards save lives?

These safety features are designed to create a barrier between the truck’s trailer and the smaller vehicle in the event of a collision. By preventing passenger vehicles from sliding beneath the trailer, underride guards help protect the occupants of the smaller vehicle.

These prevention measures are critical but the strongest measure is safe driving habits on your part and especially on the part of the truck operator.

Why aren’t side and rear underride guards standardized and mandatory?

Rear underride guards are mandatory and standardized, but they’re still not enough to protect passenger vehicles. Congress tried to strengthen the rules for these guards, and implement mandatory side guards, with the Stop Underrides Act of 2017, but it failed. They tried again in 2021, but it failed then, too. As part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the NHTSA issued a rule about upgrading rear guards to better protect passenger cars, though the regulations have not yet gone into effect.

Side underride guards, however, are NOT mandatory, and there is no standardization for the trucking companies which install them. You can thank the truck lobby’s continued efforts over the past 40 years for that.

Underride accidents have remained a grim reality on American roads, underscoring the need for urgent action. According to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), on average, at least 219 fatalities occurred each year between 2008 and 2017 as a result of these kinds of crashes. Part of the NHTSA’s goal now is to determine whether or not this data is accurate, as “underride fatalities are likely underreported,” per the GAO.

How can I keep myself and my family safe around semi-trucks?

The single best thing you can do to protect yourself around 18-wheelers is respect their size. Semi-trucks are big, heavy and bulky, and that means that a collision – underride or not – is far more likely to be deadly. Staying safe on highways and other roads means:

  • Navigating blind spots effectively: Trucks possess extensive blind spots. A practical approach is checking the truck driver’s side-view mirror; if their eyes are visible, they can see you. Pass safely on the left when feasible, as the right side remains a significant blind spot.Remember that trucks have a substantial front-end blind spot, as well, due to their elevated cabin.
  • Maintaining safe distances: Due to size and weight, trucks need more braking time; they simply cannot stop as quickly as cars can. If a truck driver does have to hit the brakes hard, there’s a chance that big-rig will jackknife or rollover. Pay close attention as trucks approach steep inclines or declines. They build momentum while going uphill and have the full force of that momentum as they come back down. To protect yourself, give them plenty of room no matter where you are located.
  • Pay attention to their signals. A lot of underride crashes occur when a truck is turning/about to turn and a car is traveling straight, or while the vehicles are going through intersections. Make sure to give them plenty of room to move in either scenario.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of a truck accident, the experienced team of truck accident and wrongful death attorneys at Glisson Law are here to help. We will undertake a thorough evaluation of the circumstances of your accident to determine liability and advocate for the full compensation you deserve.  Liability in truck accidents can often be placed on the truck driver, the trucking company, or both parties, and our skilled team of attorneys will navigate the legal complexities to ensure your case is strong and all accountable parties are held responsible.

Operating from Alton, the attorneys of Glisson Law proudly serve injured clients in and around Belleville, Edwardsville, St. Clair, and Madison counties, as well as the broader Southwestern Illinois and Missouri regions. Call or contact us today for a free consultation, as we work together to secure your rights and compensation after your accident.