St. Louis Underride Truck Accidents
St. Louis is a major city that spans the Mississippi River and has served as a hub for industry and home to many citizens for generations. Once known as the Gateway to the West, St. Louis still serves as a nexus of transportation, not only on the river but also via major interstate travel. Because of the heightened traffic, you are at a greater risk of being injured on the highway, especially in an underride accident involving a truck.
The sheer size of commercial vehicles often leads to severe injuries in the event of an underride crash. You may want to work with a team of truck accident attorneys to ensure you get the compensation you need for your injuries.
What is an underride accident?
An underride accident is an accident in which a tractor-trailer has a collision with another vehicle, and the vehicle travels underneath the trailer’s body and is crushed underneath it. The most common underride accidents involve a lower profile vehicle sliding underneath the trailer from the side and even from behind, as occurs with some rear-end collisions. Hundreds of motorists every year die in these types of collisions.
- Side underride collisions: These accidents are frequent, especially in city traffic or driving at crossroads. A T-bone type collision is a common way this happens, either from an improperU-turn or a motorist colliding with a truck passing through an intersection.
- Rear underride collision: This is the most common underride accident often caused by the improper deployment of roadside markers, inadequate or no lights or signals to improve visibility if a truck is stopped in the road, or malfunctioning or defective brake or hazard lights. Slippery conditions such as snow, rain, or ice and reduced visibility from fog can also increase the chances of a rear underride collision.
Not only are underride accidents serious because of the possibility of being trapped in the vehicle, but there is also a greater potential for being hit by another vehicle or killed in a fire or explosion while trapped.
St. Louis Underride Accident Statistics
According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, in 2014, out of 2,060 personal injury crashes involving a commercial motor vehicle, 97 of these involved fatalities, killing 109 people and injuring 3,185. St. Louis is one of the most densely populated areas of the state, meaning it’s likely a large percentage of these crashes happened in St. Louis. The numbers for 2014 are about average for the previous ten years as well as beyond.
The numbers don’t lie as they pertain to the frequency and severity of underride trucking accidents. Unfortunately, many of these accidents could’ve been prevented through the use of side guards on tractor-trailers. However, there has been push-back from the trucking industry against side guards, primarily due to the expense of installing them.
Severity of Truck Underride Accidents
A tractor-trailer is a massive vehicle, often transporting hundreds of tons of freight at high speeds. Just from physics alone, a tractor-trailer traveling full speed has enormous kinetic energy. An object in motion will remain in motion until an unbalanced force acts upon it. When this happens, the moving object and the object that tries to stop it must both deal with that extra inertia. The force of a tractor-trailer impacting another vehicle will always be devastating to the other vehicle, especially in an underride accident. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of pressure will rip through the glass and steel of a smaller vehicle effortlessly.
The most vulnerable part of a passenger car or truck is the upper part of the body since it’s designed less for strength and more for visibility and some structural support in case of a rollover accident. Contrarily, theunderside of a tractor-trailer is extremely tough since the majority of the weight of the freight is distributed there. When the two come into contact during a collision, the lack of durability of a passenger vehicle’s body makes the vehicle and its occupants extremely vulnerable to catastrophic damages and injuries.
Injuries in accidents involving a truck and a car are especially grievous and often result in fatalities or serious permanent disability. Paralysis, disfigurement, loss of limbs, and death are common outcomes. The safety features of most vehicles cannot withstand the force and damage inflicted in such an impact, and the human body is especially fragile and susceptible to injury in the event of an underride truck accident.
Leading Causes of Underride Accidents in St. Louis
There are many contributing causes to underride truck accidents, including:
- Visibility: Trucks are enormous pieces of machinery that transport huge quantities of freight at high speeds on St. Louis roads and highways. When visibility is limited, accidents are more likely to occur.
- Following too closely: Defensive driving can prevent many accidents. Leaving sufficient space between yourself and the car ahead of you can limit the severity of accidents, if not avoid them entirely.
- Road conditions: Icy or slippery roads and conditions limiting visibility, such as rain or fog, can play a significant role in underride accidents. A truck may have more traction in icy conditions and be able to come to a stop while your vehicle skids or hydroplanes right into it.
- Chain reaction impacts: A combination of weather, drivers, and inadequate warning of stopped vehicles can create a dire situation. When you share the road with trucks, your vehicle is at the mercy of the forces of physics and the skills of others.
Truck Driver Error
Unfortunately, trucks also suffer from blind spots, especially on the sides of the trailer and directly behind. A seasoned professional will take extra care in changing lanes, slowing down, and stopping their vehicle. Truck drivers often make split-second decisions on how to navigate and maneuver their large vehicles. Unfortunately, drivers and the truck’s machinery don’t always respond well in situations like these, and a jackknife or sudden lane change can be dangerous if not deadly for those sharing the road.
Driver errors leading to underride truck accidents with dire consequences include:
Inexperience: New drivers might not have the hours behind the wheel to make them competent truck drivers. When driving thousands of tons of steel and freight, a rookie mistake can be serious.
Driver fatigue: Drivers are held to strict regulations for getting enough rest on a long haul. Lack of adequate rest can delay reaction times, impair judgment, and affect blind spots leading to the potential for truck accidents caused by fatigue.
Substance abuse: Although illegal, some drivers may be under the influence of substances such as amphetamines, prescription drugs, alcohol, or other drugs that can directly affect their ability to operate a vehicle safely. Employers are responsible for ensuring that their drivers are sober and not putting others or their drivers at risk.
Improper training and equipment: Some trucks are ticking time bombs when it comes to safety. The truck is only as good as its driver, and if neither are maintained, trained, or regulated properly per the law, a tractor-trailer can become a deadly vessel. Cutting corners on safety equipment is a big reason underride truck accidents happen.
Missouri Laws to Protect Drivers from Underride Truck Accidents
Not only are drivers holding commercial driver’s licenses required to have specific training and knowledge to operate these massive pieces of machinery, but laws are in effect that mandate proper safety equipment for use on all tractor-trailers. These laws are designed to protect motorists, pedestrians, and drivers alike.
Here are just a few of the standards put in place:
Log books: These record books keep track of the tonnage of freight being hauled and track the hours driven and breaks the driver has taken. They are the pieces of information that hold drivers accountable for their actions and serve as a record to enforce mandates to keep other drivers safe.
Safety features: Adequate safeguards are mandated for all tractor-trailers in Missouri. This includes warning devices such as lights, electrical hookups for brake and tail-lights, and mirrors. In addition, anti-lock brakes are a requirement and prevent skids and jackknife accidents, especially in slick conditions.
Excessive speed: Truckers are required to obey speed limits to save lives. Repeat offenders risk losing their commercial driver’s license.
Regular maintenance: Trucks need to be inspected and maintained regularly to ensure the proper operation of brakes, electrical systems, warning lights, and tires to keep other vehicles and their drivers safe.
Size and weight limits: These standards are put in place to ensure the proper weight distribution, handling of a tractor-trailer hauling a load, and how the vehicle travels. Overloading a truck or improperly loading a trailer can result in accidents, especially with multiple trailers and different types of freight.
Are underride guards effective?
Yes. Underride guards prevent another vehicle from passing under the trailer during a collision. These guards act in a way that will allow safety features such as airbags, crumple zones, and bumpers to work in the way they were designed by keeping the force of the collision in these areas. Breaching the guards or having no guards at all allows the weight and surface area of the trailer to work in different ways that defeat the purpose of these safety features.
Federal mandates have required rear collision guards on tractor-trailers since the end of the 1990s. However, side guards are still catching up, and even though their absence might suggest they’re not as crucial as rear-guards, this is simply not true. However, improperly installed guards are dangerous as they don’t effectively reduce or prevent underride collisions. Over time, if not adequately maintained, road salt and corrosion might also weaken these guards, rendering them useless.
How can NST law help my case?
Due to the complexities of navigating the legal system in St. Louis, Missouri, if you’ve been injured in an underride collision or other accident involving a tractor-trailer, it’s advisable to seek legal representation. Your legal rights are critical, especially when involving serious injuries and extensive damages, and you may be entitled to compensation to ease your financial burdens in the aftermath of a truck accident.
Trucking companies and drivers should be held accountable for their actions, especially if an accident could’ve been avoided, or at the very least its severity reduced, through proper training and equipment use.
Our team of truck accident lawyers can provide you with legal advice concerning your options for the best possible outcome resulting in maximum compensation after an underride truck accident. Contact our St. Louis office today for a free case evaluation.