The dangers of underride crashes

On Behalf of | May 1, 2023 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

Large trucks are some of the most imposing vehicles you can encounter on the road. When sharing the road with such massive vehicles, it becomes even more critical for drivers to stay alert to avoid accidents.

Colliding with a large truck is not only incredibly dangerous but highly fatal as well. But while a truck smashing into your car is one thing, crashing into a truck and having your car caught underneath the vehicle (or its trailer) is a far more terrifying situation to find yourself in. Underride crashes dial up the risk to eleven, and they’re something you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

What are underride crashes?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defined underride crashes as collisions where the car slides underneath the body of a truck because of the ride height differences between the vehicles.

Interestingly, NHTSA recently found inconsistencies among US states on the definition of underride crashes; the agency has requested law enforcement throughout America to use the term “underride” to refer to crashes that meet the criteria above.

What happens during an underride crash?

Two things could happen when an underride crash occurs, the NHTSA said. Either the car gets lodged into a part of the under-ridden vehicle (the large truck) and gets dragged along or passes completely under the truck, but its roof gets sheared off. Either situation is hazardous and potentially fatal for the car’s passengers.

How often do underride crashes occur?

Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that half of the fatal collisions between large trucks and cars were underride crashes in 1997 – when the Institute last reported on the issue. Of those underride crashes, 57% involved the front of the truck, 22% involved the rear, and 20% the side of the vehicle.

How do I avoid underride crashes?

The usual safe driving practices still apply if you’re looking to avoid underride crashes. But here are some truck-specific things to keep in mind:

  • Passing trucks: Driving a large truck may seem like driving any other automobile, but truck drivers have to contend with a glaring blind spot at their right-hand side due to their massive dimensions and ride height. Always pass on the left-hand side if you’re passing a large truck.
  • Trucks need space: Large trucks occupy much space on the road, so it only makes sense that they’d need as much space when turning. Don’t try to pass between a large truck turning and the curb, or you’ll risk a collision.
  • Truck braking: Large trucks will take more time and distance to brake and slow down because of their size and weight. Consider using your turn signals earlier than usual, and be aware of the distance between your car and the truck behind you.

Underride collisions are dangerous, so you’ll want to avoid getting into them as much as possible. If you survive an underride crash, you can pursue legal action against the truck driver to help pay for your injuries. Alternatively, you can file a wrongful death case if a loved one died in an underride crash.