When a semitruck collides with a passenger vehicle, the occupants of the passenger vehicle are usually severely injured or killed. Semitrucks can cause significant damage in a collision because they weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger vehicles weigh, and they have a greater ground clearance.
The greater ground clearance contributes to a particularly devastating type of crash called underriding. Underriding involves a passenger vehicle sliding or being pushed underneath a semitruck. This type of collision can occur on any side of the semitruck, but is often associated with a car sliding under the back end of the trailer.
Underriding is usually fatal for the occupants of the passenger vehicle because the bottom edge of the trailer can shear or compress the top half of the passenger vehicle. However, steps can be taken to help prevent underriding accidents from occurring.
Underride guards provide some protection
All semitrucks must have underride guards installed on the bottom rear of the trailer. These guards can block a passenger vehicle from sliding under the truck. However, many underride guards can buckle or break off in a collision, and when they work, they only help prevent vehicles from underriding the rear of the semitruck.
Underride guards do not always provide enough protection on their own. Truckers and other drivers on the road must make behavioral changes to help prevent this type of accident from occurring. As the driver of a passenger vehicle, there are a few actions you should try to avoid.
Never tailgate a semitruck
It is important to avoid following a semitruck too closely. If the trucker must slam on his or her brakes, you must have enough distance between you that you are able to avoid sliding under the trailer. It is also important that the trucker can see you behind the trailer. Semitrucks have a rear blind spot that extends 300 feet, so you should stay at least 300 feet back.
Never cut off a truck
Semitrucks also have a front blind spot. This blind spot extends 20 feet. If you merge within 20 feet in front of a semitruck, the driver may not even realize you are there, which could result in a front underriding collision. Also, semitrucks require much more space to come to a stop than passenger vehicles require. If you cut off a semitruck, the vehicle may not have the capability to stop fast enough to avoid a collision.
Never linger in blind spots
In addition to the front and rear blind spots, semitrucks have large blind spots on the left and right side. Sometimes underriding incidents occur when a trucker cannot see a vehicle beside it and tries to merge to another lane. The blind spot on the passenger’s side extends two lanes over, and the driver’s side blind spot extends over one lane. If you must pass, you should pass on the left. However, you should generally avoid lingering in a semitruck’s blind spots. If you cannot see the driver’s face in the mirror, the driver probably cannot see you.
Underriding collisions can be devastating for those involved and their families. If you have a loved one who was killed in an underriding incident, it may be possible to receive compensation for final medical expenses, funeral expenses and other costs associated with your loved one’s unexpected death.