When a passenger vehicle gets involved in an accident with a large commercial vehicle like a semi truck, the odds are stacked against those in the passenger vehicle walking away from the crash. Federal safety agencies have mandated that many large commercial vehicles have safety equipment to prevent traffic accident fatalities. However, after conducting tests in 2013, researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety discovered that safety equipment designed to prevent underride collisions do not adequately protect those who share the road with large commercial vehicles.

Underride Crashes Are Often Deadly

Underride accidents occur when a passenger vehicle hits the rear of a semi trailer and ends up sliding under the back of the trailer. Underride accidents are particularly dangerous for those in passenger vehicles because the force of the collision usually ends up causing the trailer to crush the passenger compartment of the passenger vehicle. In many cases, the trailer sheers the top of the passenger vehicle off during the accident. Passenger vehicles are not designed to take impact on their tops, which means that during underride collisions the force of the accident bypasses the areas that are designed to withstand impact. Safety features such as airbags and safety restraints do not engage and people suffer more severe injuries than they would endure in collisions with other passenger vehicles, such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and limb amputations.

Underride collisions are often fatal for those in passenger vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that about 423 people die each year as a result of underride accidents and another 5,000 suffer injuries. Some believe those are conservative estimates, given gaps in the way that federal agencies record accident fatality data.

Underride Guards Can Fail

The IIHS has been concerned with the problem of underride crashes since the mid-1970s, when its researchers proved that the underride guard safety standards then in place for commercial vehicles in the U.S. were ineffective in preventing fatalities. The IIHS conducted tests in 2011 to show that the U.S. underride guard standards were still insufficient. The IISA petitioned the NTHSA to improve underride guard standards for trucks in the U.S., but the NHTSA has not responded to the request.

Many trucking companies have installed improved underride guards on their trucks, since the underride guard standards are higher in Canada than in the U.S., and companies want their trucks to be able to cross the border to deliver things into Canada. The IIHS tested the stronger underride guards to see how well the protected passenger vehicles during collisions.

Researchers ran a 2010 Chevy Malibu into a stationary semi trailer at 35 m.p.h. with different percentages of the vehicle's hood contacting the trailer. The tests showed that the underride guards meeting higher safety standards generally prevented underride collisions when 100 percent and 50 percent of a passenger vehicle came into contact with a trailer. However, when only 30 percent of the passenger vehicle's front end hit the trailer, the guards failed to prevent underride. The crash test dummies' positions after the collision test revealed that if it had been a real accident, the passengers would have died.

Talk To A Lawyer

Sharing the road with commercial vehicles can be dangerous for those in passenger vehicles. Although most large trucks are supposed to have safety equipment, not all truck owners keep their vehicles in good working order, greatly increasing the chances of auto accidents. If you have been injured in an accident with a truck, seek the assistance of a seasoned truck accident attorney who can help you recover for your losses.