Most drivers understand that it’s important to use great caution when at the wheel. This is particularly true during periods of bad weather, when travelling at high speeds or when sharing the road with much larger (or smaller) vehicles. Collisions and crashes happen all the time, but deadly accidents and those that result in major injuries can often be prevented with adequate safety equipment and a considered approach to risk reduction behind the wheel.
When there’s a major size discrepancy between the vehicles involved in a crash, the smaller vehicle inevitably stands a greater chance of serious damage and injuries to the people inside it. That’s why understanding truck accidents are so important to your safety on the road.
When people think of collisions and crashes with commercial trucks, they typically think of accidents where a truck hits a car or vice versa. One of the most terrifying and deadly forms of commercial truck accidents, however, involve smaller passenger vehicles ending up underneath a larger commercial truck. These accidents are called underride accidents, and although they are preventable, they still pose a serious risk to many drivers. Roughly 200 people a year die in these collisions.
There are two kinds of underride crashes: rear crashes and lateral crashes. In a rear crash, a smaller vehicle strikes the back of slower moving or stopped a commercial truck. Without an adequate underride guard, the smaller vehicle can end up beneath the truck. Injuries from these crashes are often catastrophic, with the vehicle totally demolished and the passengers killed as a result.
Lateral underride crashes happen when a passenger vehicle slips underneath the side of the trailer attached to the commercial truck. The smaller vehicle can get damaged by the trailer itself or pinned under the front or rear wheels of the commercial truck. Major damage to the vehicle involved, as well as severe injuries and even deaths for passengers and drivers, are common in these tragic, but preventable, collisions.
In order to reduce the growing number of rear underride crashes, federal standards began requiring rear crash guards. These should prevent other vehicles from sliding under after colliding with the back of the truck. In some cases, however, cost-cutting practices in both manufacturing and maintenance have to lead to faulty underride guards. Rusted or poorly made guards can break or crumble when hit, leaving the smaller vehicle in a seriously dangerous situation.
Side guards are not required at this time. These are often metal sheets hanging from the sides of the trailer, intended to prevent a vehicle from sliding underneath the open area. More trucking companies and drivers need to consider the importance of these safety panels in order to reduce the potential for serious and fatal collisions.