Driving on a Tennessee highway can be a frightening experience. At certain times of the day, the traffic seems to be flying around you, and drivers are barely in control of their vehicles as they shift from lane to lane. You may find yourself gasping at near misses and wondering how so many people get home safely each night.
When this near-chaotic scene includes tractor-trailers, the risk for an accident resulting in critical injuries or fatalities is much higher. The size, weight and speed of a big rig make it difficult for the driver to stop quickly or take evasive maneuvers. However, many of the most horrific accidents occur when the truck is barely moving.
The high risk of underride accidents
Underride crashes occur when a vehicle collides with the side or rear of a tractor-trailer or other large truck. Because of the height of the trailer, your smaller vehicle is likely to continue traveling under it, stopping when it becomes wedged in the undercarriage. These types of accidents are nearly always fatal because the first contact the smaller vehicle has with the edge of the trailer usually occurs at the windshield, often shearing off the roof of the car. Underride accidents occur most frequently in the following situations:
- The driver of the truck is making a U-turn or crossing the flow of traffic at a slow rate of speed.
- The truck is crossing traffic when it is dusk or dark when it may be more difficult for you to see it until it is in your headlights.
- The owner of the truck has failed to install, clean or maintain mandatory marker lights and reflectors along the sides of the truck.
- The trailer of the truck is a single color that blends in with the surroundings.
- The driver has stopped or slowed the truck and failed to engage flashers.
An underride collision as slow as 30 mph can be deadly. Trucking companies and truck owners can take steps to reduce the likelihood of underride accidents. Some trucking companies add more lights and reflectors than the law requires to alert drivers to the sides of their vehicles in risky situations, such as having to back trucks across traffic into a parking lot. However, until underride guards are mandatory, trucking companies may be unwilling to spend the money to provide you and your loved ones with the added measure of safety.