A woman was killed early on a Friday morning in late April after her SUV became wedged under a semi-tractor trailer on I-65 North in Franklin.
Photographs and video from the scene of the accident—which took place just south of Murfreesboro Road—don’t make it clear whether her SUV went under the side or rear of the truck, but both side underride accidents and rear underride accidents are frequently deadly.
Although most of the general public isn’t familiar with the term “underride accident,” it’s easy to visualize what happens. Underride crashes involve passenger vehicles striking and traveling underneath a truck or truck trailer, either on the side or at the rear.
Underride accidents are among the most dangerous truck accidents, because the frame of a truck is roughly the same height as a motorist’s head and torso. When the body of the truck intrudes into the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle—the occupant survival space—the end result is often catastrophic injury or death.
As you may know, this accident is merely the latest truck underride crash to occur in the Nashville metropolitan area. In another recent wreck, a Corvette was ‘totaled’ when it ended up under a semi-truck on I-24 at exit 84 in Rutherford County.
The Stop Underrides Act
Although truck underride accidents are relatively uncommon, at least as compared to the total number of automobile and truck accidents that occur each year, the fact that they are so deadly—and that many of the injuries suffered may be preventable—has attracted the attention of Congress.
At the tail end of 2017, the 115th Congress introduced the bipartisan Stop Underrides Act in hopes of reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by underride crashes.
In a nutshell, the Stop Underrides Act would raise the performance standards on the rear underride guards that are required on the rear of trucks. At the same time, it would also mandate the installation of side underride guards, which are currently not required.
It remains to be seen whether this federal legislation passes, but two of the safety advocates behind the legislation—Marianne Karth and Lois Durso—have done an admirable job of educating legislators about the issue and getting the bill introduced in Congress.
For her part, Marianne Karth was the victim of a horrific rear underride accident on I-20 in Georgia in 2013, one in which two of her daughters were killed. In Karth’s case, a truck rear-ended her car after it failed to stop in time for slowed traffic. The impact spun the car around before striking it a second time, forcing it underneath a second truck’s trailer.
As for Lois Durso, her daughter was killed in a side underride accident in 2004 after the car in which she was riding slid on the slow-slicked road and went under the side of a tractor-trailer.
Both Karth and Durso now operate web sites—AnnaLeah & Mary and StopUnderrides.org, each established in memory of their respective daughters—that aim to educate the public about this critical public safety issue.
Manufacturers and Entrepreneurs Working to Develop, Improve Underride Guards
Meanwhile, truck and trailer manufacturers—as well as a handful of intrepid engineers—are working to improve existing rear underride guards and develop new side underride guards that can prevent catastrophic injuries.
For example, the AngelWing truck side guard/side underride protection device is a steel guard that is designed to keep passenger vehicles and other vulnerable road users from passing under the side of a truck. (It also features a fairing skirt that can help reduce a truck’s fuel consumption.)
Yet another device that can be retrofitted onto trucks—the TrailerGuard System, by Collision Safety Consulting—creates side impact protection and reduces aerodynamic drag, while at the same time reinforcing the rear trailer guard.
Devices like these could be a big part of the solution to the problem of truck underride, especially if Congress passes new federal legislation. In the meantime, though, truck underride accidents—which also commonly affect pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists—figure to remain some of the most dangerous accidents on the road.
Raybin & Weissman Can Help if You Have Been Involved in an Underride Accident
If you have any questions about truck accidents or if you or a loved one has been injured in an underride crash, contact us online or call us at (615) 256-6666.
We’re Nashville’s truck accident lawyers and over the years we have worked with countless truck accident victims in Middle Tennessee, helping them to obtain compensation and get their lives back on track. No matter the extent of your injuries, our personal injury lawyers will work diligently to negotiate a favorable settlement or prove your case in court. We will fight to get you justice.