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Are you doing everything possible to avoid underriding a truck?

Colliding with a semitrailer can be extremely dangerous. Because of their heavy weight and high ground clearance, semitrailers can cause severe injuries and death to the occupants of smaller, more vulnerable vehicles.

One particularly devastating type of collision that can occur with semitrailers is called an underride collision. This involves a passenger vehicle sliding or getting pushed underneath a semitrailer. When this occurs, the semitrailer often crushes or shears the top of the smaller vehicle, which can be especially hazardous to the occupants of that vehicle.

What causes underride collisions?

The high ground clearance and heavy weight of a semitrailer make underriding possible on any side of the semitrailer. However, the potential causes for this type of collision can vary.

Some possible causes, include:

  • A trucker tailgating a car
  • A car cutting off a semitrailer
  • A trucker not properly using a turn signal
  • A car tailgating a semitrailer
  • Poorly maintained lights on a semitrailer
  • Poorly maintained brakes on a semitrailer
  • A trucker or other motorists engaging in distracted driving

Are there ways I can prevent being in an underride collision?

You may already be practicing some of the habits that can prevent underride collisions, such as avoiding driving distractions and using your turn signal. However, you may not realize that some of your other driving habits are unsafe.

Consider how much space you maintain between your vehicle and a nearby semitrailer. How closely do you follow semitrailers? How do you go about passing a semitrailer? How much space do you allow before merging in front of one?

Many drivers leave some space as a buffer, but they do not realize that they need to leave much more space than they would for other passenger vehicles. Semitrailers need so much space because their large size results in operating limitations, such as large blind spots on all sides and a long stopping distance. 

It can be difficult for a truck driver to avoid colliding with a car he or she cannot see. In general, it is safest to assume that the driver cannot see you if you cannot see his or her face in one of the truck’s mirrors. However, to make sure you are not lingering in a blind spot, consider:

  • Staying at least 30 feet behind a semitrailer
  • Allowing at least 20 feet of space in front of a semitrailer before merging in front
  • Avoiding the two lanes on the right of a semitrailer
  • Avoiding one lane along the middle left side of the truck

Keep in mind that sometimes staying out of blind spots is not enough to avoid a collision. A truck traveling at highway speed may need at least the length of two football fields to come to a complete stop. This means that depending on the road conditions and other factors, it may be appropriate to leave even more space between your vehicle and a semitrailer than what is needed to stay out of blind spots.

There are some actions you can take to help minimize your risk of being involved in an underride collision, but truck drivers also have a responsibility to behave safely on the road. Although truck drivers are often safe drivers, even a single reckless action could put the lives of other motorists at risk.

If you or a loved one are seriously injured or a loved one is killed in a collision with a semitrailer, it may be appropriate to hold the truck driver accountable. You may be able to receive compensation for medical expenses, funeral expenses or other costs associated with the injury or death.

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