Underride Collision Truck Accidents

There are many different kinds of truck accidents. Among the most deadly: Underride collisions.

Some research suggests as many as half of all fatal truck accidents are the result of either underride or override accidents.

Underride accidents are those that occur when a passenger vehicle collides with a semi and is forced underneath the trailer. With the average passenger vehicle about 40 inches above ground, and the lowest point of a trailer about 45 inches off the ground, the bed of a trailer can enter the cabin of the vehicle in a collision, resulting in catastrophic injuries or death to the occupants of the car. The top of the car is often crushed or even completely ripped off.

At The Ansara Law Firm, our truck injury lawyers in Fort Lauderdale recognizes this happens in both rear-end collisions and side-impact crashes involving semi-trucks.

A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates vehicles with a lower front geometry tend to experience more underride than vehicles with a higher front geometry.

The agency estimates about 500 people in passenger vehicles die annually in underride collisions with large trucks, and more than 5,000 people are injured.

Side Underride Collisions

All accidents unfold very quickly, but most of those who survive side underride collisions describe a situation where the trailer simply “appeared out of nowhere.” This is true even though truck drivers tend to assume on-coming traffic can clearly see them crossing the road.

Many side underride accidents happen at night or in low daylight.

Most of the time, these occur in three different scenarios:

  • Truck driver backs out of driveway or parking lot into a heavily-trafficked road
  • Trucker attempts a U-turn
  • Trucker is attempting to cross or turn onto a street or highway

Side underride collisions account for about half of all underride accident fatalities. A 2012 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found in 143 of 206 crashes, side impact crashes in trucks resulted in the most severe injuries.

Rear Underride Collisions

Rear underride collisions occur when a passenger vehicles runs under the rear of a semi-trailer.

Some factors commonly cited in rear underride accidents:

  • Poorly-marked trucks or trailers parked at the side of the road, slowly entering or leaving the road or slowing down
  • Inoperative, dim or dirty taillights
  • Taillights located close together
  • Failure to properly use reflective triangles when truck is broken down
  • Failure of trucker to use emergency flashers

While most passenger vehicles in Florida travel the highways at speeds exceeding 70 miles-per-hour, trucks are known to slow to 20-mph or less when exiting or engaging in other maneuvers. Not only is this unexpected by many drivers, rate of speed can be especially difficult to gauge at night.

Underride Guards

Underride guards are devices put in place on large trucks to stop smaller vehicles from traveling underneath. They are required on medium and heavy trucks.

The first standard was issued by the NHTSA in 1953, and applied to all trucks manufactured thereafter. That rule required underride guards to be at least 30 inches off the ground with cargo beds that were 30 or more inches off the ground. The standard was updated in 1998, when guard height was lowered to 22 inches, and strength and testing requirements were added.

However, while most crash studies focus on incidents of rear underride, side-impact underride continues to be a major problem, and the NHTSA has yet to require side-impact guards on all trucks.

Although some large truck manufacturers have taken the initiative to install side-impact underride guards, most aren’t required to do so. Some municipalities have also taken initiative when it comes to city-owned vehicles, in an effort to prevent side impact underride crashes involving pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.

Additionally, some safety experts have called for additional underride prevention on the side rear corners of trucks, as it is estimated 40 percent of all rear underride collisions involve these areas, yet there is little protection for such offset collisions.

The NHTSA recently announced plans to initiate rulemaking regulation that would require stronger guards able to withstand greater force at more points on the truck.

These standards would comply with those imposed in Canada in 2007. That country currently requires underride guards to withstand twice as much force as those used in the U.S.

If you have been involved in an underride collision in South Florida, contact an injury law firm with proven success in obtaining just compensation.

Contact the Fort Lauderdale truck injury lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm, by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (888) ANSARA-8.