Large commercial vehicles have a substantially different structure than passenger vehicles, which means they can create very different kinds of crashes than smaller passenger vehicles. Many people have heard of jackknife accidents, which involve the loss of control over a commercial truck because of the unstable connection between the cab and the trailer.
Fewer people know about underride crashes, even though underride crashes are unquestionably more dangerous than jackknife accidents. A truck can jackknife and not cause injury or property damage to other drivers if traffic responds quickly to the incident. In an underride crash, another vehicle winds up under the commercial vehicle, which almost always results in catastrophic property damage and severe, if not fatal, injuries to the passengers of the passenger vehicle.
The good news is that there are certain actions that passenger vehicle drivers can take that reduce their risks for an underride crash. There are also steps trucking companies can take to limit the danger posed by the vehicles in their fleet.
Smaller vehicles need to respect the space around commercial vehicles
Underride collisions typically involve a commercial vehicle and a passenger vehicle that was very close to it at the time of the crash. Putting as much space as possible between yourself and large commercial vehicles is the best way to minimize the risk of an underride collision by giving you and the truck enough time to safely stop if you need to.
Generally speaking, you want to give at least 20 feet of clearance when merging in traffic in front of a truck. You should also stay at least 30 feet back from the rear of the truck. Trying to avoid driving immediately to either side of a commercial vehicle in their blind spots is also a good habit.
Trucking companies should invest in better underride guards
Underride guards can make a major difference in the outcome of what could be a fatal crash. Unfortunately, the federal requirements for underride guards are relatively lenient. Too many trucking companies will purchase the cheapest and lightest guards available instead of the largest and most effective versions.
Research has shown that thicker, wider underride guards protect drivers from more angles. There is also plenty of evidence that side underride guards can reduce the chance of a vehicle slipping under a commercial vehicle in a crash, but they are not currently required. Companies that do not make a proper investment in the safety equipment on their trucks place the public at unnecessary risk.
Some companies may even allow drivers with defective underride guards out on the roads. If you think inadequate or defective underride guards contributed to a collision that impacted your family, you may have the right to take legal action against the company involved.