Most people who use public roads understand that massive commercial trucks pose a special risk. After all, these huge vehicles have large blind spots, make wide turns and take longer than typical passenger vehicles to fully stop in an emergency. That can create a scenario where a serious crash is likely, and the people in the passenger vehicle are much more likely to end up hurt.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 97 percent of the people who died in crashes between passenger vehicles and commercial trucks in 2016 were in the smaller vehicle. While you clearly want to avoid any crash with a large truck if possible, one kind of collision poses more extreme risks than many others. Underride crashes are frequently deadly and could be prevented in many cases.
What is an underride accident?
An underride accident occurs when a smaller passenger vehicle ends up underneath a much larger commercial vehicle. Because semitrucks and their trailers are much higher off the ground, it is possible for smaller vehicles to pass underneath their trailer in a crash. When this happens, the smaller vehicle often ends up either completely crushed or with the top sheared off, many times with horrific and fatal results for the people in the smaller vehicle.
In order to prevent rear underride accidents, which happen when a vehicle hits a commercial truck from behind, the federal government mandates the installation of rear underride guards. These thick metal bars should stop passenger vehicles from hitting the rear tires of a commercial truck or sliding under the trailer from behind.
Sadly, sometimes these critical safety guards have aged poorly or were substandard to begin with, making them ineffective in a crash. Better guards are available, but many companies won't pay to upgrade their safety features.
Side underride crashes are also dangerous and deadly
It is also common for smaller vehicles to end up sliding sideways under the trailer, instead of passing wheels or an axle of the vehicle first. There is, after all, a massive open space between the axles of the typical semitrailer. Many times, going under the truck from the side proves deadly, with the roof of the smaller vehicle cut off as a result. Other times, compact vehicles may survive the initial slide underneath, only to end up crushed by the wheels.
There are simple guards available that could prevent side underride collisions in most cases. They look like sheet metal, and you may occasionally see them on trucks rated for commercial driving in Canada as well as the United States. Canada currently requires these guards to protect people from these tragic accidents. No one should lose a loved one or suffer a serious injury due to a lack of proper underride guards or faulty underride guards.