Most people understand that commercial vehicles, like eighteen wheelers and semi-trucks, pose a serious risk to other drivers on the road. As we pointed out in another blog post, the average driver takes great care to avoid blind spots on trucks, which means not driving close to the sides or close behind big vehicles. People try to pass and give wide berth to commercial vehicles, when possible, to reduce the potential for an accident.
Unfortunately, in cases of extreme traffic or highway driving, avoiding those areas may not be possible. The heavier traffic is, the more likely you will get forced to drive in uncomfortable and perhaps unsafe proximity to a large commercial vehicle. When that happens, you are in a situation where a serious or even fatal accident is possible.
Underride accidents involve vehicles going under trucks
It only takes a second for something to go wrong in heavy traffic. Suddenly, the truck in front of you has stopped, and you can’t stop before you hit it. The higher clearance of the rear of the vehicle means that you and anyone in your vehicle could easily get injured or killed. The roof can quickly get sheared off the vehicle, and human bodies get damaged much more easily than a metal vehicle frame.
That’s why large commercial trucks are equipped with rear underride guards. These metal devices lower the point of impact, preventing vehicles that hit commercial trucks from the rear from going under the truck. However, there have been cases where underride guards were not up to standard and failed to prevent accidents. In these cases, both the trucking company and the manufacturer of the underride guard may be legally liable for injuries or deaths that result.
Side underride accidents kill dozens each year
Although they are less common than rear underride accidents, side underride accidents happen with some frequency, too. These accidents happen when a car or truck is propelled laterally or diagonally through traffic. The smaller vehicle ends up passing between the wheels of the commercial truck, only to get destroyed by the tires. About 200 people every year die from side underride accidents with commercial trucks, but side underride guards are not legally required for commercial vehicles yet.
Side underride guards are basically sheets of metal that prevent other vehicles, including cars and motorcycles, from passing underneath the main body of the truck’s trailer. These guards usually only allow a foot or so of clearance to ensure that no one can end up trapped under a heavy commercial truck in case of some kind of accident.
Sadly, these guards are not required, but lawmakers may soon change that. In the meantime, drivers should take care to give commercial trucks enough space to reduce the risk of an underride accident.