Personal Injury Lawyers,
Jacksonville, FL

‘Stop Underrides Act’ could boost highway safety

A semi-truck traveling fast down a highway

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, is co-sponsoring a proposal that would make underride guards on the sides and fronts of all new trucks mandatory. The “Stop Underrides Act,” which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, in early March, would also require underride guards on the rear of large trucks to be updated.

Underride accidents occur when a smaller passenger vehicle gets lodged and crushed underneath the trailer of a semi-truck. During impact, the smaller vehicle can get wedged under the trailer and have its roof sheared off, with occupants sustaining fatal injuries. While the data may actually underestimate the total number of fatalities due to discrepancies in local police reporting, over 6,000 people were killed in underride collisions between 1994-2018.

Furthermore, 2019 data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that 13% of passenger vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes with a large truck were vehicles that struck the side of the truck, while 24% were in vehicles that were side-struck by the truck. Research has shown that having even simple barriers, known as underride guards, can help prevent smaller vehicles from getting trapped underneath an 18-wheeler’s trailer. Currently, underride guards are only required for the rear of large trucks but still need to be brought up to acceptable standards.

“Hundreds of individuals across the nation are lost to underride collisions every year, with Florida unfortunately ranking among the top states for reported fatalities,” Rubio said. “As a parent with kids of driving age, I look forward to working in a bipartisan fashion to advance efforts to make our roads safer. I am proud to join my Senate colleagues in reintroducing this legislation that would help save lives.”

Why do underride truck accidents happen?

An underride crash involving a passenger vehicle and a tractor-trailer can happen for a variety of different reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Poor visibility, either at night or in certain weather conditions (heavy rain, fog) – during times of low visibility, a large commercial vehicle may make an abrupt turn or go through an intersection without yielding to oncoming traffic. This is just one reason why trucking companies are required to use reflective tape and other modes of lighting on trailers to increase visibility.
  • Slick road conditions – Roadways that are wet from rain or slippery due to ice can increase a big rig’s braking distance or cause a semi-trailer to skid out of control. Regardless, truckers are expected to adjust to hazardous weather conditions. Keep in mind they are paid, professional drivers who are held to high standards.
  • Rear-end collisions – Any time a large commercial vehicle slows down or comes to a stop too abruptly, a smaller passenger vehicle can get lodged beneath the rear-end of the semi’s trailer. These types of accidents can happen in a lot of different ways and may be the result of poor fleet maintenance (e.g., brake failure), speeding, distracted driving (including texting while driving), fatigued driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or other banned substances, and failure to adjust for conditions.
  • Unsafe turns – It takes a substantial amount of skill to safely operate a large commercial vehicle, which is why truckers are held to such high standards. Truck drivers who are reckless, negligent, or inexperienced may make an unsafe turn that results in the truck’s trailer cutting into another lane and causing a collision.

The common thread in each scenario is negligence by a trucker and/or trucking company. Considering that most underride accidents result in life-altering or fatal injuries to the other drivers involved, negligent truck drivers and trucking companies must be held accountable for their actions.

Pajcic & Pajcic can help you seek justice

If approved, the “Stop Underrides Act” would be legislation that's long overdue. The dangers of underride accidents have been known for decades, yet we still see hundreds of families severely impacted by these devastating crashes every year. The attorneys at Pajcic & Pajcic know this all too well – in one case involving a log truck, we secured a $13 million verdict for a client who sustained a catastrophic brain injury in an underride crash.

If you or someone you love was seriously injured or died in an underride accident with a semi-truck, our dedicated legal team can protect your rights and fight to help you recover maximum compensation. Contact us today for a free and confidential case evaluation. Our office is located in Jacksonville and we serve clients nationally.

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