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Underride collisions with big rigs cause many fatalities

Few accidents involving large commercial trucks have as high a rate of fatalities as those involving underrides. According to the National Transportation Safety Board's director of highway safety, the big rigs "are not in any way crash-friendly."

Most government officials, safety activists and trucking industry executives all agree that large commercial trucks should have improved underride guards. However, disputes arise over the design of these guards and how much implementing these safety measures will cost.

To understand just how deadly an underride can be, one has to fully understand the term. Underride is used to describe accidents where passenger vehicles collide into 18-wheelers and other big rigs from either side or the rear and get crushed beneath them. As this also crushes the passenger compartments, the injuries that result are often horrific and incompatible with life. Decapitations are common with these type of collisions.

Underride is also the term used when motorcyclists, pedestrians and bicyclists slide or roll under the bodies of large trucks. This typically occurs from either side and places them in an extremely hazardous position where the wheels can run over them.

For one family, the issue is especially poignant. The parents two teen daughters were killed in 2013 in an underride accident while riding in the back of their father's Ford Crown Victoria. Their car was struck by a large truck, spun around and struck again before being knocked back beneath yet another big rig's trailer. The rear passenger compartment was crushed, killing the girls.

Their mother maintains that the trucking industry should "move heaven and earth to make the best-possible protection."

Federal regulations do mandate that trailers and some trucks be fitted with underride guards at the rear, those bars hanging from the backs of big rigs and trailers. But some feel those are insufficient and should extend all around the sides, increasing the weight and cost.

In part due to the surviving family members of the deceased teens petitioning the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency is mulling new standards for these guards. However, there are concerns that the additional weight of wraparound guards will affect the payload of the truck, as well as being cost-prohibitive to modify existing trucks.

If you were injured in a deadly underride collision with a big rig, you may need to file a claim for damages to recover financial compensation.

Source: Trucks.com, "Traffic Experts Debate How to Prevent Deadly Truck Underride Crashes," James R. Healey, accessed Dec. 30, 2016

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