Underride accidents, where a passenger vehicle becomes lodged under the trailer of an 18-wheeler, are among the most dangerous types of commercial truck accidents. Federal regulations require commercial trucks to have guards to prevent underrides in rear-end accidents; but, according to estimates from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), about half of all fatal truck accidents still involve underrides.

With the federal mandate for rear underride guards, a significant portion of these accidents occur when a passenger vehicle hits the side of a tractor trailer. This can occur when the truck driver runs a red light, when a truck jackknifes on the highway and under a variety of other different scenarios. Due to the risk for fatalities, IIHS’s executive vice president stated in May 2017 that, “We think a mandate for side underride guards [in addition to rear underride guards] on large trucks has merit, especially as crash deaths continue to rise on our roads.”

Truck Underride Accident Statistics

Truck underride accidents present serious risks for drivers and passengers, and IIHS’s recent testing of side underride guards shows that these guards can help save lives. Here are some of the statistics and figures that could change if trucking companies and regulators did more to reduce the risk of underrides:

  • The number of fatal trucking accidents in the United States has increased each year since 2015.
  • Deaths from side-impact collisions have consistently exceeded deaths from rear-impact collisions.
  • “A 2012 IIHS study found that strong side underride guards have the potential to reduce injury risk in about three-fourths of large truck side crashes producing a fatality or serious injury to a passenger vehicle occupant. This proportion increased to almost 90 percent when restricted to crashes with semitrailers.”
  • Without side guards, 72 percent of a standard 53-foot trailer is exposed to underride accidents. With side guards, this decreases to 38 percent.

Why Are Truck Underrides So Dangerous?

Truck underrides are uniquely dangerous due to the fact that they negate the primary safety protections built into passenger vehicles. Seatbelts and airbags are designed to protect occupants in the event of a collision. But, in an underride accident, as described by IIHS based upon its crash testing, “the car ran into the trailer and kept going.” As a result, “any occupants in the car would likely sustain fatal injuries.” However, in a similar test conducted with a truck equipped with side underride guard, “the car’s airbags and safety belt could properly restrain the test dummy in the driver seat.”

With truck accidents and truck accident fatalities on the rise, it is clear that more needs to be done to protect motorists on the road. Based on IIHS’s data, preventing fatal underride accidents would be a good place to start.

Contact Morrow & Sheppard LLP

Morrow & Sheppard LLP is a Houston law firm that represents individuals and families who are suffering due to commercial truck accidents. If you were seriously injured or a loved one was killed in an accident involving an underride, call (800) 489-2216 or contact us online to speak with a lawyer for free.