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Truck Accidents - Underride Crashes

Robert Karns

In truck accidents an underride crash can occur when the smaller passenger vehicle goes underneath the higher commercial truck causing the hood of the smaller vehicle to go under the larger truck and smash or destroy its windshield.

In these truck accidents, when the front of the smaller passenger car smashes into the back of the tractor trailer or large box truck liability issues can go well beyond the smaller passenger automobile being liable for rear-ending the tractor trailer or large box truck.

One such incident that would make the tractor trailer or large box truck liable would be if the back of the trailer or the box truck did not have the federal required rear underride guard or a defective or below standard underride guard.

Underride guards are steel bars that hang from the backs of trailers or box trucks to prevent the front of the passenger vehicle from moving underneath the trailer during a crash. When a passenger vehicle ends up under a large truck the top of the occupant compartment of the passenger vehicle is crushed because the structures designed to absorb the energy of a crash are bypassed. The front of the passenger vehicle that would normally absorb the impact slides under the truck and the windshield and top of the passenger compartment is destroyed. The airbags will not deploy as the sensors in the front of the passenger vehicle are not activated. The safety belts also do not help because the passenger compartment is crushed as it slides under the back of the truck.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) upgraded the requirement of rear underride guards in 1998. The new rule called for rear guard ground clearance to be no more than 22 inches and set back no more than 12 inches. This new rule was for tractor trailers only. The NHTSA has not updated rear underride guard requirements for single unit large box trucks.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is urging the NHTSA to revise requirements for rear underride guards to make it safer for the public and provide more protection than the current rear underride guards during truck accidents. In addition the NTSB is urging the NHTSA to require all trailers to be equipped with side underride guards. The U.S. Government doesn't require tractor trailers to have front or side underride guards. In Europe, front and side underride guards are required on large trucks.

When involved in a crash with a large truck these issues must be looked into as it may very well place the liability on the large truck causing much more severe injuries than if the guard was in place or not defective.

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