On November 7, 2017, a man driving a pickup fell asleep at the wheel and slammed into the rear of a semi truck near Flintstone, Maryland in a rural area of Allegany County. According to CBS affiliate WUSA Channel 9 News, he suffered only minor injuries, even after first responders were forced to cut him out of his vehicle using the jaws of life. Many news outlets would not even report on an accident involving such negligible injures, but this incident is noteworthy: It highlights an increase in the number of underride auto accidents in Maryland, which are among the most devastating types of crashes involving large trucks.
An underride collision occurs when a passenger vehicle slides underneath a tractor trailer being hauled by a semi truck. Catastrophic injuries and fatalities are common and, in many cases, the individuals are decapitated by the impact. Despite regulations on required safety equipment for semis, underride accidents remain a serious threat to Maryland motorists.
Statistics on Underride Accidents
The WUSA Special Assignment Unit found that there were at least 23 underride crashes throughout the US from September 7 to November 18, 2017; these numbers are subject to a margin of error due to inconsistencies in reporting how the accidents occurred. In addition:
- There were 21 fatalities in these collisions, and seven victims were seriously injured.
- Data collected by various federal government agencies indicates that there are approximately 200 people killed every year in underride accidents.
- At least some amount of underride occurred in 75% of all accidents involving semi trucks and light vehicles between 2008-2009. In 36% of these incidents, the underride extended all the way into the light vehicle’s “greenhouse,” which is the compartment enclosed by the windshield and windows.
Safety Features Required by Law
Despite the severity of underride crashes, controversy remains about what safety features should be required by federal law. Currently, the National Transportation Safety Board only requires tractor trailers to have rear guards installed to prevent rear underride; these guards have failed, both in actual accidents and lab-based studies. Plus, the sides of the trailer do not offer any protection to motorists.
Federal law also requires implementation of reflective devices, such as paint or tape, to increase visibility. However, being able to see the semi and tractor trailer is not a factor in most incidents.
Injuries from Underride Collisions
The physics of an underride crash tend to affect the upper body of an accident victim, especially since the vast majority of these collisions involve direct contact between the tractor trailer and occupants of the striking vehicle. Certain types of injuries are more common, including:
- Severe head injuries and traumatic brain injuries;
- Spinal cord and neck injuries;
- Lacerations, contusions, and other wounds to the face; and,
- Neck, shoulder, and arm injuries.
If you were injured or lost a family member in an underride crash, an auto accident attorney can help you recover the compensation you deserve for your losses. Please contact Baltimore County, MD attorney Michael A. Freedman to schedule a consultation or with questions about your circumstances.
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