Underride accidents are a type of road collision that pose serious risks to everyone on the road. These accidents occur when a smaller vehicle crashes into the space beneath a larger truck, like an 18-wheeler. This space is often referred to as the “underride zone.” The dangers associated with underride accidents are significant and can lead to severe injuries and even fatalities.
Oklahoma City has seen its fair share of road accidents, including underride incidents. These accidents can happen in different ways—at the front, side, or back of a truck. While you may hear quite a few stories about front (also called “override”) and rear underride truck accidents, side underride accidents happen almost just as frequently. Rather than a smaller car crashing and sliding beneath the front or back of a truck, the car slides beneath the truck from the left or right side. Given the considerable size disparity between trucks and passenger cars, the outcomes of underride accidents have the potential to result in catastrophic consequences.
How often do truck underride accidents happen?
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 57% of underride accidents happen at the front of the truck while about 22% happen at the back and 20% happen at the side of the truck.
To put it into perspective, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that at least 488 people inside of passenger vehicles died in a crash involving the side of a large truck in 2021. However, they also say that these types of crashes are likely underreported due to discrepancies in data collection methods and terminologies used at the time of the study.
Causes of truck side underride accidents in Oklahoma City
These accidents can happen for a few reasons, and sometimes it’s because of negligence. Some of the reasons truck side underride accidents happen are:
- Blind spots and challenges in detecting nearby vehicles. Much like regular passenger cars, trucks have “blind spots,” which are areas around the truck where the driver can’t easily see. However, a truck’s blind spots are significantly larger than those on a regular car. With the driver’s seat high up, there are parts of the road they can’t see well, like right beside and behind them. If a smaller vehicle is in one of these blind spots, the truck driver might not notice it.
- Lack of proper signaling. When a truck changes lanes or turns without letting other drivers know, this lack of communication can lead to accidents. There’s a risk of a side underride every time a truck goes through an intersection, too, if the driver doesn’t signal correctly, or take proper precautions while turning.
- Speeding and aggressive driving. Trucks are heavy and need more time to stop or change direction. If a truck is going too fast or driving aggressively, the driver might struggle to stay in control. This can make accidents more likely.
- Insufficient attention to surrounding traffic conditions. Just like when you’re walking, you need to look around to stay safe. If the truck driver isn’t paying enough attention to the traffic around them, they might miss important things happening on the road and will have a harder time stopping quickly or adjusting their movements fast enough.
- Challenging weather conditions. Imagine trying to walk on a slippery floor—it’s tough, right? The same goes for trucks on slippery roads. Bad weather can make it harder for the truck driver to control the vehicle, increasing the risk of accidents.
Potential injuries resulting from side underride truck accidents
Underride accidents are often deadly. In the very worst case scenario, the top of the passenger vehicle can be sheared off entirely. The steel frame can also be crushed. Decapitation is not unheard of in these types of collisions.
Some injuries survivors of side underride truck accidents could sustain are:
- Traumatic brain injuries. A strong crash can result in any level of brain injury. Even in cases where the head does not make direct contact, the impact can jolt the brain within the skull, similar to the brain being shaken within its protective casing.
- Chest and rib injuries. A forceful blow can result in rib fractures, causing discomfort and impeding normal breathing patterns.
- Fractures and internal injuries. The sudden impact can result in broken bones or internal organ damage if the vehicle is crushed around the driver or passenger.
- Leg and hip injuries. The crash’s impact can injure legs and hips, impeding movement including the victim’s ability to walk.
- Potential paralysis or spinal injuries. Severe crashes may ultimately harm the spine, hindering mobility and daily activities.
- Disfigurement and scarring. Underride crashes from any position can crush vehicles. A person trapped inside can be severely disfigured. Limb loss is possible, and reconstructive surgery may be necessary.
Side underride guards could save lives
Trucks are in urgent need of side underride guards due to their potential to save lives in the event of an accident. These guards act as protective barriers along the sides of trucks, preventing smaller vehicles from sliding beneath the truck during a collision. While federal regulations do require trucks to have rear underride guards, there are no regulations for side underride guards just yet. Not only would these guards prevent serious injuries that people inside of passenger cars could sustain, they could also save lives. In fact, the NHTSA found that side underride guards would prevent at least 69 serious injuries and 17 fatalities every year if implemented.
If you or a loved one was injured in a truck underride crash, talk to the experienced Oklahoma City car accident attorneys at Cunningham & Mears about your case. Call our office or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team today.
Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More