Truck underride accidents are the stuff of nightmares. These are collisions between a passenger car and a truck trailer. The gap between a trailer’s bottom and the road surface is enough for the car front to run under it. But not the passenger compartment. The impact then partially or completely shears off the car’s roof. Truck underride accidents are, therefore, often fatal for the car occupants. The design of passenger cars and truck trailers’ ground clearance, after all, makes underride almost certain in a collision. This is one reason why 68% of the fatalities in car-truck collisions are the car occupants.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT TRUCK UNDERRIDE ACCIDENTS?
Trucking is absolutely essential to our prosperity and quality of life. There are millions of tractor-trailers on the roads every day. These are big, heavy vehicles. It takes them 20%-40% further than a car to brake to a stop. That distance increases on wet roads. “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you.” Have you seen that warning sticker on a big truck? Truck drivers have blind spots in their field of vision. Sometimes these are big enough for a car to fit in.
These factors argue for increasing car drivers’ awareness that tractor-trailers are not just larger cars. They are different. Passenger car drivers need to govern themselves accordingly. Longer following distances, more caution in passing, for example.
There are, however, some steps the trucking industry can take, too. Most truck underride accidents happen at night. Typically, when the truck driver is making a U-turn, a left turn across an oncoming lane, or backing up. Visibility is plainly the issue. Car drivers, obviously, are not seeing the truck until it’s too late. The trucking industry should do something about this. Better lighting, high contrast markings, and reflective paint could help.
THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW
Senator Gillibrand (NY) introduced a bill titled Stop Underrides Act of 2017 in December 2017. The Senate referred it to the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. That’s where the bill remains to this day. Similar bills were introduced in both the House and Senate this year.
The Act would require tractor-trailers to mount underride guards. These are barriers to prevent cars from squeezing under trailers in a collision. The Government Accountability Office is not convinced these barriers would be effective and has asked for more research. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is opposed to the mandate.
Meanwhile, passenger car drivers must rely on themselves to avoid the horror of truck underride accidents. If the worst happens, survivors need to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after the accident. We at Silver & Silver, PA, have long experience getting just compensation for our clients involved in truck underride accidents. And for their families.