Truck Under-Ride Accidents Increase Fatality Risks

Collision on a highway

A truck under-ride accident, a collision that allows a passenger vehicle to slide partially or entirely under a truck or trailer, increases the odds of fatality for the vehicle driver and passengers. As a Lake County truck accident attorney knows, severe damage to a car’s roof, hood, windshield, and passenger compartment are common in truck under-ride accidents due to the size and weight of the truck.

Truck Under-Ride Guards

In Illinois, truck accidents and collisions are less common than those involving only cars, but they are disproportionately responsible for traffic-related injuries and fatalities across the state. The physics behind trucking accidents are simple: trucks are large, heavy vehicles that take a long time to start and stop. When they are traveling at a moderate or high speed and collide with a smaller vehicle, serious injuries and fatalities to drivers and passengers in those vehicles are likely.

Typically, in a truck under-ride accident, a passenger vehicle often strikes the rear of the truck or tractor trailer. Because the frame of a large truck or trailer is wider than the truck’s tires, a car can easily slide underneath the rear of the truck in a collision and get wedged between the truck’s frame and tires. Side under-ride crashes are less common, but often involve bicyclists and pedestrians. In busy urban areas like Chicago, they are a particular concern. Personal injury claims for rear and side truck under-ride accidents in Chicago are commonly filed with a Lake County truck accident attorney.

To limit truck under-ride accidents, the government has issued requirements related to under-ride guards, horizontal metal bars that extend below the lower edge of a truck or trailer. Under-ride guards are intended to stop a car before it can collide with a truck’s tires. Although most current truck under-ride guards can withstand collisions at low or moderate speeds, they may be less effective at higher speeds. If a car collides with the side section of the rear of the truck, or if it strikes the truck at an angle, an under-ride accident may still occur. Currently, new regulations are being discussed to expand the types of vehicles covered by mandatory under-ride guard laws. Regulations that would strengthen existing guards and help prevent the number of serious injury claims to a Lake County truck accident attorney are also being discussed.

Truck Under-Ride Safety Conference

In May 2016, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hosted a conference to examine truck under-ride safety concerns. Discussions between IIHS and the Truck Safety Coalition prompted suggestions to reduce the risks for truck under-ride accidents:

  • Improvements in under-ride guard designs
  • Better visibility of under-ride guards
  • Guards for the sides and rear of single-unit trucks
  • Stronger enforcement of existing laws
  • New crash avoidance systems

Currently, under-ride steel guards on large trucks are required for the backs of semi-trailers, but not for the sides of trailers or the fronts of large trucks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an upgraded standard for rear under-ride guards is pending, and rear guard requirements on single-unit trucks, such as delivery trucks and garbage trucks is also under consideration.

Safety Under-Ride Crash Tests

During the IIHS Safety Conference, a new rear under-ride guard design was tested on a 2016 Stoughton semi-trailer truck. In a typical test crash situation, the under-ride guard stopped the passenger car and preserved safe space in the car that prevented the test dummy’s head from hitting the rear of the trailer. In a real crash scenario, this type of crash almost always indicates certain death for the driver in the car. According to the vice president of engineering for Stoughton Trailers, the successful under-ride crash test prompted plans to make the new guard standard on all of its trailer trucks. New guards are expected to reduce truck under-ride accidents in Chicago and personal injuries and fatalities that require legal help from a Lake County truck accident attorney.

Currently, IIHS has performed under-ride crash tests on semi-trailers from eight of the largest trailer manufacturers in the U.S. The 2016 Stoughton was the fourth trailer to successfully stop an under-ride crash in a tough under-ride guard evaluation. The tests are part of an IIHS research program to encourage better rear under-ride guards that will not break away or buckle if a vehicle rear-ends the trailer.

Although recent under-ride crash tests show positive results, federal regulations have not yet been updated. Many trailer manufacturers have already made voluntarily changes to their guard designs to improve protection from injuries in rear impact accidents. These changes in under-ride guard designs exceed current regulations in the U.S. and Canada, as well as proposed safety requirements from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.