Articles Posted in Tractor-Trailer Accidents

It’s every holiday traveler’s worst nightmare: A semi-truck, seemingly out-of-control, barreling toward you on the expressway at a high rate of speed.

Gary personal injury attorneys know know tractor-trailer accidents are not an everyday occurrence. But too often these crashes are deadly and a recent spate throughout the Midwest reminds us of the risks as we enter the busy holiday travel season.

We expect these kinds of crashes will increase over the holidays, with a combination of icy winter weather and the tendency of trucking companies to overload their vehicles and overwork their drivers in an attempt to meet end-of-the-year demands for goods and materials.
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Underride accidents are a type of accident that occurs only with large trucks. Our Highland truck accident attorneys have discussed the dangers of underride accidents in the past, in response to an Indiana Tractor Trailer accident in which a 56-year-old Indiana man sustained injuries after his car wedged underneath a tractor trailer.

Unfortunately, this accident was not an isolated incident and underride accidents are a far-too-common occurrence in Indiana and throughout the United States.The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has, in the past, made recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) intended to reduce the number of underride wrecks or even to eliminate them entirely. Unfortunately, NHTSA has not made the recommended changes to regulations fpr trailers and large trucks. Now, even as the prior problems have not been corrected, IIHS has released a new alert indicating that recent crash tests have raised the possibility of additional underride accident risks.

IIHS Concerned About Underride Accidents
Underride accidents happen when a car gets wedged underneath a large truck or tractor-trailer. Obviously, when this occurs, the top of the car can get crushed and serious injuries can be suffered including injury to the head and neck.

Preventing these type of accidents should be a top priority and there are regulations in place designed to prevent cars from being pushed underneath trucks. For example, the majority of semitrailers are required to have underride guards installed. These guards consist of steel bars that hang down from the back of trucks and stop cars from going underneath.

IIHS’s past criticism of the regulations related to underride prevention center around the fact that the guards are often not strong enough and not large enough. Because the bars were not sufficient to stop cars from sliding underneath, IIHS made recommendations to NHTSA suggesting that the regulations quality of the guards be improved. IIHS also requested that NHTSA expand the types of large trucks the regulations apply to by making it mandatory for more trucks to have guards. For example, dump trucks aren’t currently required to have these underride prevention bars and IIHS has suggested that they should be required to come into compliance.

Unfortunately, NHTSA has not yet passed tougher regulations. And now, IIHS crash tests reveal a high risk of underride accidents when a passenger car hits the back side of a truck. The bars, in other words, prevent the car from slipping underneath the truck if the car hits the center rear. But when a car strikes the side, on the other hand, there is no protection to prevent an underride accident. Since cars often hit from the side if they are trying to swerve out of the way to avoid a crash, this is a serious problem.

In light of the new crash test information from IIHS, hopefully NHTSA will be prompted to take action both to address the past concerns and to address the new safety risk revealed by the recent IIHS crash tests.
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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.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, decapitation 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.
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