Truck underride accidents are some of the most gruesome and awful accidents in which you or a loved on can possibly be involved. They happen when a car passes under a big commercial truck, cutting into or slicing off the passenger compartment of the car. The results are almost always catastrophic or deadly. Amputations, decapitation, and death are typical results of an underride accident.
How it works
Underride accidents occur due to the height difference between passenger vehicles and commercial trucks. In a normal accident, if you can call any accident normal, the engine compartment, trunk, or side of the vehicle takes the brunt of the impact. In an underride accident, all of these stronger portions of the vehicle slide beneath the truck, allowing the full force of the impact to hit the upper part of the vehicle.
The engine compartment, trunk, and even sides of a vehicle are substantial enough to absorb some of the force, offering some protection to occupants. When the passenger compartment takes all of the impact it is usually sliced off, and it happens so fast that the passengers are often cut in half or decapitated in the process. They don’t have time to duck.
Deadly and preventable
Sadly, underride accidents will continue to occur for many years. These accidents could be largely prevented by certain changes to commercial trucks. Legislation has been passed to help prevent these accidents, but most of it is ineffective, and none of it applies to trucks which were built before the laws were passed.
Visibility. In 1993 safety regulations were passed which require all new trucks to have reflective tape on the rear and sides of the vehicle. The tape is meant to help other drivers to see the trucks and avoid an accident. It was a good start, but when the tape is covered by dirt, mud, or snow, it is not visible. The tape does not help the truck driver see and avoid other cars, and provides no protection when an accident does occur.
Design. In 1996 a more effective law was passed, requiring new trucks to have a bumper which is only 22 inches off the ground. This should have made trucks low enough to keep cars from sliding under them. However, many of these new bumpers collapse on impact and do not provide any real protection to cars.
Possible future improvements. Consumer and safety groups are recommending laws which would require lower bumpers and absorbing underrun protection systems to provide real protection for passenger vehicles from underride.