Semi Truck Trailers and Underride Crashes

When a car or small truck runs under the trailer of a semi tractor, it is known as an underride crash. These underride crashes can be some of the most deadly types of accidents involving semi trucks and represent at least 25 percent of all fatal truck collisions. There are several causes for these types of crashes, and it is important that both truck drivers and passenger vehicle drivers understand them in order to avoid these deadly crashes.

What Happens in an Underride Truck Collision?

Truck underride crashes are often fatal to the driver or passengers of a smaller vehicle, even if they occur at low speeds. Sometimes the roof of the vehicle is completely sheared off. In other cases, the car actually hits a wheel near the axle, which prevents the vehicle from running under the truck. Underride collisions can be side impact or rear impact. The video below which was produced by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, highlights how the current federal regulations are not sufficient to prevent deadly under ride crashes.

How Do Underride Collisions Occur?

Underride crashes often occur at night and during conditions in which the sun is at a low angle. They are usually the result of a truck driver attempting to cross a street or make a turn into a street. Truck drivers assume that because their vehicles are so large that they will be easily seen, but the slightest distraction on the part of a car driver can result in a side-impact underride collision. This type of accident may also occur when a driver tops a hill at a relatively high rate of speed and cannot stop in time to prevent a collision with the truck.

How Can Underride Crashes Be Prevented?

The best way to prevent underride crashes is to make trucks more visible, particularly at night or in poor lighting conditions. The ability to see an object against a background is called conspicuity. There are several ways that vehicles can be made more conspicuous, most of which deal with color and brightness.

For semis, conspicuity can be enhanced with the use of specialized reflective tape and lights that are placed at levels to allow drivers to easily see all parts of the truck. It is especially important to use conspicuity tape along the sides of a trailer to help drivers spot the height of the trailer and prevent an underride accident due to poor visibility.

Additionally, the federal government has implemented regulations requiring basic lights on all large trucks to enhance visibility on the road. Along with conspicuity tape, lights are a good way to alert drivers to the presence of a semi trailer that might otherwise be hard to see.

For those who have been the victims of underride accidents, a personal injury attorney may be able to help them collect monetary damages from the responsible party such as a trucking company that fails to conspicuously mark vehicles. Fill out our free case evaluation form and one of our experienced truck accident attorneys will get back with you to discuss your case.