Large trucks pose an outsized safety risk on Florida roads, mainly because of the size disparity compared to other vehicles and the fact they frequently travel at such high speeds. But there’s another – often overlooked safety issue that truck crashes present: The risk of underride.
As our Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyers can explain, underride collision truck accidents occur when a passenger vehicle collides with a semi truck and is forced underneath the trailer. Whereas an average passenger vehicle is about 40 inches high, the lowest point of the average trailer is about 45 inches off the ground, meaning the smaller vehicle can get trapped underneath. During these crashes, the trailer or truck might “intrude” into the passenger compartment, which almost always leads to either severe injuries or death.
Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finalized a rule updating two Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards intended to bolster protections for drivers and passengers in rear underride crashes where the front end of the smaller vehicle crashes into the back of a larger vehicle (such as a semi truck) and slides under that vehicle.
Noting that truck underride crashes are often fatal, the new rule requires rear impact guards on trailers and semis with sufficient strength and energy absorption to protect occupants of passenger vehicles in multiple crash scenarios, keeping drivers safe and preventing deadly crashes. The final rule amends FMVSS No. 223 and FMVS No. 224 pertaining to rear impact guards and rear impact protection.
In addition to setting these new standards, the rule also requires more research on these crashes and establishes an advisory committee on underride protections. Rear impact guard designs are going to be more closely studied, with state tracking of underride crashes more systematic.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, there have been 219 fatal underride crashes involving large trucks reported each year. Although these represent less than 1 percent of all traffic deaths, we know this figure is likely an underrepresentation because there is a great deal of variability in state and local data collection on these crashes. Further, police officers responding to crash scenes may receive limited information about how to identify and record truck underride crashes. Another study by the NHTSA estimates annual truck underride deaths number around 500 annually, with injuries topping out at around 5,000.
Many Florida truck side underride crashes involve one of the following scenarios:
- A trucker was attempting a U-turn.
- A truck driver was backing out of a parking lot or driveway into a busy road.
- A truck driver is trying to cross or turn into a street or highway.
Rear underride crashes typically often involve one of the following:
- Dim, dirty, or inoperative tail lights.
- Failure to use reflective triangles or emergency hazards when truck is broken down.
- Poorly-marked trucks slowly entering a road or slowing down.
As longtime Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers, we recognize that when it comes to personal injury claims, Florida truck accidents are trickier than most other types of traffic incidents. That’s firstly because trucks tend to cause greater harm, which means the cases are automatically higher stakes. But beyond that, trucking cases tend to be complicated by the fact that there are usually numerous defendants. The driver may not be employed by the carrier, which may be separate from the shipping company. There are layers of liability protection for each, though there should be higher insurance coverage for commercial drivers carrying larger/more dangerous loads.
If you have been injured in a Florida truck accident, our dedicated Broward injury attorneys are here to help.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Heavy-Vehicle Crash Data Collection And Analysis to Characterize Rear and Side Underride and Front Override in Fatal Truck Crashes, March 2013, NHTSA