Indiana Tractor-Trailer Risk Highlights Risk of Underride Collisions

A 56-year-old Hobart man escaped life-threatening injuries when his vehicle wedged beneath a tractor-trailer and up against a retaining wall while merging onto I-80 eastbound, according to the Indiana State Police.

The picture (available at above link) shows how precarious the driver’s position was as his vehicle wedged partially beneath the trailer between the tractor and the trailer’s rear axles. State police say the driver failed to manage the merge before the lane ended and his Toyota was struck by the semi, which was carrying more than 44,000 pounds of soft drinks. The truck driver was not injured. The vehicle’s driver was taken to Saint Mary’s Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. 1192523_truck.jpg

A Highland personal injury attorney experienced in handling semi accidents in Indiana knows fatal injuries often result when a passenger vehicle passes beneath a tractor-trailer. Even 5-star safety-rated cars are not meant to withstand these underride accidents — thus,┬ádecapitation risks make them particularly deadly.

Such accidents may occur several other ways.

One of the common factors in such crashes is failure of the underride guards. These guards (which you commonly see hanging down beneath the rear of a tractor-trailer) are designed to prevent passenger vehicle’s from traveling beneath a trailer in the event of a rear-end collision. However, they are notoriously unreliable. A study last year by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found guards approved for use in the United States failed more frequently than those that comply with more stringent Canadian standards. However, neither performed well in the event of a rear-end collision, particularly when the vehicle strikes the trailer at an angle.

Only 22 percent of the rear-end crashes studied did not result in some underride of the vehicle. In 23 of 28 fatal accidents, catastrophic underride occurred.

The other way these accidents commonly occur is when a motorist does not allow a tractor-trailer plenty of room when making a turn. Semis have a much wider turning radius than passenger vehicles — particularly when making a right turn. The right-side convex mirror is rendered useless during such a turn, leaving the driver blind to the inside of the turn. The truck must swing wide enough to ensure the trailer’s trailing wheels do not strike the curb, a pedestrian or other obstruction located to the inside of a turn. When turning left, a trucker still must swing wide but has the benefit of seeing the inside of the turn through the driver’s side cab window and can thus be more precise.

Motorists should never attempt to pass a truck making a turn. A trailer may catch a vehicle on the outside as it swings wide. Neither should a motorist attempt to beat a tractor-trailer to the turn by trying to skate by on the inside, where it can be caught by the swinging trailer as it tracks out of its turning radius.

Indiana Personal Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles accident cases throughout northern Indiana, including Gary, Hammond and Calumet City. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:

Elderly Drivers, Prescription Drugs & Driving Risks in Highland, Published by Padove Law, Sept. 21, 2012.