Trucks, due to their large size and their unique characteristics, are especially dangerous vehicles when involved in collisions with passenger vehicles. A passenger car is significantly outweighed by a truck, and when a truck and a passenger car get into a crash, a lot can go wrong. One of the biggest dangers, however, is something called an underride accident.
Our Knoxville truck accident attorneys know that an underride crash happens when a car actually slides right underneath a truck. This can cause devastating injuries due to the extensive damage done to the car.
Semitrailers are typically designed with the aim of preventing these types of crashes as a primary concern. But unfortunately there are some design flaws and areas where the design is lacking. A recent report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) highlights the potential problems that may occur in certain types of crashes involving large trucks.
Crash Test Reveals an Underside Accident Risk
According to the IIHS news release, a new type of crash test was conducted, which involved a car crashing into the back of a very large truck. The test was unique, however, because the car crashed only into a small portion of the rear of the truck.
When the car hit only a small portion of the side rear of the truck, there was a greater chance of the car getting trapped under the truck in an underride accident. As the IIHS points out, this means that the majority of trailers failed in preventing a potentially fatal underride accident.
When an underride accident occurs and the front of the passenger vehicle ends up underneath the bottom of the truck, the top of the occupant compartment is usually crushed or sheared away. Air bags, seatbelts and other safety devices in cars are virtually ineffective in this situation, and head and neck injuries are very common among those in the accident.
Crash Test Shows Underride Crashes a Serious Risk
Because underride crashes are so dangerous, trucks are designed to prevent this scenario from occurring. In fact, trucks are generally required to have steel bars called underride guards that hang from the rear of the trailer, with the aim of preventing a car from slipping underneath the truck.
Unfortunately, these underride guards may not be providing adequate protection. As IIHS points out, earlier studies indicated that the requirements for underride guards in the U.S. were inadequate both in terms of the dimensions and in terms of the minimum strength of the bars.
IIHS petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute (NHTSA) to make changes to the standards in 2011 to address these serious issues. IISH also asked NHTSA to apply standards regarding underride bars to certain other types of trucks that were not currently required to have them, such as dump trucks.
NHTSA has not responded to these requests or made any changes. However, Canada has tougher standards on underride bars and has since 2007, so many truck manufacturers have bars that exceed NHTSA standards even when the trucks are sold in the U.S.
The new crash tests, however, indicate that even trucks with better underride bars have vulnerabilities when a passenger car hits a truck from the side rear. Drivers of passenger cars need to be aware of the very serious risk of underride accidents that can exist when an accident of this type occurs.