What is a Tractor Trailer Underride Accident?
Tractor-Trailer underride accidents occur when a passenger vehicle, usually the front of the passenger vehicle, enters below the base of the trailer of a large truck (e.g., 18-wheeler). This is particularly possible with small family passenger cars (as opposed to a mini-van or SUV). Unfortunately, the height of the front of the car is insufficient to contact the bed of the truck, often 10 to 20 inches below the bed of the truck. This puts the bed of the truck right at the head-chest level of the passengers within the car. Injuries in these accidents tend to be catastrophic, if not fatal.
Why doesn’t the driver just slow down to prevent an underride accident?
A tractor-trailer truck is pretty big… so why doesn’t the car driver see the tractor trailer in time to prevent a underride accident?
Unfortunately, perception and reality meet too late in these circumstances. Often the driver is fooled into thinking that the roadway is clear. Simply, the passenger car driver does not have adequate warning of the impending trailer underride danger.
What is being done to improve driver perception or trailer safety?
Since 1993, trucks must have a special type of reflective tape on the rear and sides of the trailer. Since 1996, trucks must also be equiped with a rear underride guard (strong metal structure) at a height of 22 inches above the ground, so that it will easily come in contact with the engine block of a small car, and thus prevent the car from underriding the bed of the tractor truck trailer. However, it is sad news that many trucks have not been retrofitted. Thus, many tractor trailer trucks manufactured before 1996 are on the road without these two critical safety features. In addition, even ones that have had these features installed may have insufficient protective qualities, such as an inadequate amount of reflective material or a rear underride guard that is too weak to prevent underride of the passenger vehicle.
What are other factors that play into a rear underride accident
Weather. Especially fog, snow, or rain that reduces the distance of visibility. Fog and snow are a huge problem, since they often mask the grey or white color of many trucks.
Driver carelessness. If the driver is momentarily inattentive, they may not see a trailer that has been inadequately pulled to the side of the road, or a trailer that is across the highway as the result of a u-turn or a wide turn in the case of a truck entering a roadway.
The positioning of the truck may cause a trailer underride accident.
Road conditions. Slick road conditions increase the stopping time for a car approaching a tractor trailer underride situation.
Surrounding (ambient) lighting which can reflect off of the truck and cause the truck to blend in with its surrounding, forming a sort of accidental camaflouge, especially on a silver truck. In fact often the reflective red/oraqnge colors match the neon lights from surrounding businesses.
Road lighting. A lack of road lighting can make it very difficult to see the outline of the tractor truck’s trailer. Especially a dark colored trruck trailer such as a dark blue, brown or black trailer. This makes it nearly impossible for the driver of the passenger car to see the truck in time to stop and prevent a trailer underride.
Dirty tractor trailers case accidents. When dirt collects on the reflective tape, it becomes inefficeint at reflecting light and loses its protective warning qualities. Frequent washing of the truck is a must to give the passenger car driver a chance to prevent a side underride accident with the tractor trailer!
What is the most common danger that creates a Tractor Trailer Underride Accident?
Truck driver making a u-turn or a wide-turn. This is not a sudden u-turn. Rather, this is a situation where often the truck has made it already half way around. In fact, the cab of the truck is often facing the oncoming traffic. That fact makes it even more deceiving to the oncoming traffic, since they belive that the truck is already facing them, with the trailer straight behind it, rather than reality – with the tractor truck’s trailer stretched across the oncoming car’s path of transit.