Fatal rear-end truck accident a reminder of the need to slow down and exercise caution in construction zones.
Earlier this month a 32-year-old Goodlettsville man suffered serious injuries when his car struck the back of a UPS tractor that was stopped due to construction-related traffic on I-24 West near the Bell Road exit. The man—who was driving a 2010 Hyundai Sonata—was transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead. The crash took place circa 10:45 pm, prompting the victim’s father to tell News 2 that nighttime driving conditions appear to have played a role in the accident.
“These UPS trucks are brown, it’s night, he was only in a tractor, the tail lighting is not that great. You don’t expect it to be backed up that bad and you are going 50, 60 miles an hour, and I suspect he went over into another lane to try and avoid the traffic and just didn’t see the UPS tractor there.”
The victim’s father went on to urge Music City residents to slow down, especially in or near construction zones, saying, “On these interstates around Nashville, [there’s] so much construction, so much congestion. Slow down for God’s sake. It’s just not worth it.”
Slowing down is good advice, of course. It’s also worth paying attention to the construction notices on the overhead message boards above Nashville’s interstates, like the board you encounter before the Old Hickory Boulevard exit on I-24.
It’s also worth noting that the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) announces construction lane closures on its web site. Construction lane closure notices (categorized by county) are issued weekly, with the April 12-18 notice being a representative example. In its construction notices, TDOT also encourages drivers to “use caution and obey reduced speed limits in all TDOT work zones, regardless of closure activity, and to Know Before You Go! by checking travel conditions before leaving for your destination.” In this particular case, lanes on I-24 were closed due to milling and paving work.
Rear underride accidents often result in fatalities
The above accident is also a reminder of the dangers of rear-ending a truck, which often results in a rear underride, where the automobile goes under the back of the truck. In rear underride accidents, the chassis of the truck typically intrudes into the automobile’s passenger compartment, leading to catastrophic injuries or death.
A good example of such a crash happened in mid-April on I-24 near Old Hickory Boulevard in Madison. In that case, a 25-year-old man lost control of his 2006 Mazda 6 and struck the rear end of a tractor-trailer that was stopped on the shoulder, according to wkrn.com. The driver of the Mazda passed away at the scene; the driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured.
Although tractor-trailer trucks do have underride guards, the guards are often insufficient to prevent an underride, particularly if a car hits the guard at a high rate of speed. Notably, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for underride guards—FMVSS No. 223 rear impact guards and FMVSS No. 224 rear impact protection—were established more than 20 years ago. This has led to calls by safety advocates to update the standards, thanks in part to the development of new underride guard technology (which has the potential to make rear underride accidents much more survivable).
The text of the Rear Impact Guards Final Rule explains the problem succinctly, noting that “Underride can potentially occur when a trailer chassis is higher than the hood of a passenger vehicle. In the worst cases, referred to as passenger compartment intrusion (PCI) crashes, the passenger vehicle underrides so far that the rear end of the trailer breaks the vehicle’s windshield and enters its passenger compartment. PCI crashes generally result in injuries and fatalities to the passenger vehicle occupants….”
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s TOUGHGUARD Award
To their credit, in recent years many truck/trailer manufacturers have worked to improve the strength and effectiveness of their rear underride guards, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has recognized five North American semitrailer manufacturers, awarding them its TOUGHGUARD award for passing crash safety tests.
“At first, only one of the semitrailers we evaluated passed all three [crash safety] tests,” said David Zuby, the IIHS’s executive vice president and chief research officer in a news release. “Now five trailers do,” he continued, referring to Great Dane, Manac, Stoughton Trailers, Vanguard National Trailer and Wabash National. “Manufacturers really took our findings to heart and voluntarily improved their guard designs.”
Yet much more progress can be made, especially by the other major truck and trailer manufacturers, who are reportedly working on improvements of their own.
If you have any questions regarding rear underride accidents—or if you or a family member has been the victim of an accident involving a tractor-trailer or single unit truck—I encourage you to contact me via our online contact form or call me at 615.256.6666. At Raybin & Weissman we offer a free, no obligation consultation. We serve Nashville, Davidson County and the rest of the Nashville Metropolitan Area.