Tractor-trailer accidents are among the most deadly of all motor vehicle accidents, whether in the Atlanta metro area or elsewhere throughout Georgia. In the case of auto accidents involving tractor-trailers and cars, the results of a collision frequently lead to severe damage, debilitating injuries and even death. The massive size of a tractor-trailer truck compared to an average-sized automobile means that it is usually the occupants of the other vehicle who suffer serious injuries.
One of the most dangerous types of commercial trucking accidents for occupants of a passenger vehicle is known as an under-ride accident.
If you or someone you love has suffered serious even catastrophic injuries or wrongful death in a commercial big-rig accident, including an under-ride accident, the experienced Atlanta big-rig accident lawyers of Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, will work diligently in your best interests to help you obtain the compensation that you deserve. Montlick and Associates has been representing the victims of tractor-trailer accidents throughout Georgia and the Southeast for over 39 years. We work hard for our clients as part of our ongoing objective of being known as the top tractor-trailer lawyers in Georgia.
Those who happen upon commercial trucking under-ride accidents often wonder how the driver of the passenger vehicle can fail to see a big-rig that is 48 feet long and 13 feet high. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that one of the biggest contributing factors is driver expectation. A driver just does not expect to see something as big as a tractor-trailer rig stretched across the road in front of them. This element of surprise affects the perception reaction time (PRT) of a driver adding approximate 1.5-2 seconds to a driver’s PRT. The PRT is how long it takes someone to actually make a cognitive decision that they are indeed seeing something like a tractor-trailer in front of them. If an oncoming vehicle is traveling at 50 miles per hour (75 feet per second) and someone’s PRT is as long as 2 seconds, for example, his or her vehicle will travel 150 feet or more before they actually react and do something to avert a possible collision.
Visibility is another factor that contributes to these types of crashes. People may not notice a poorly marked tractor-trailer until it is too late. At night, big-rigs traveling along interstates are dark outlines against a dark background. Even though the lights may be visible on the truck as an outline, the actual shape of the vehicle may be hard to make out. Sometimes the trucks are outfitted with lights of a certain color like white or silver. These lights are especially hard to see in foggy weather. Even if red or amber lights mark the sides or rear of a truck, the ambient lighting from businesses on busier highways can often make it difficult to see these colors.
Compounding these visibility issues is the fact that the actual headlight beams of most automobiles are not positioned well to illuminate something as high as a bed of a semi-truck. The lights on a vehicle on a passenger vehicle are about 24-27 inches and about 33 inches off the ground for SUVs and pick-up trucks. Most trailer beds on tractor-trailers are about 4 feet off the ground. This means that the brightest spot of a low beam on a car headlight hits below the bed of a trailer. A trailer that is not properly marked with reflective tape or is covered in dirt may contribute to the lack of visible lighting on the sides or rear of a truck.
Truck drivers making wide turns or U-turns are also a common cause of these types of fatal trucking accidents. Usually, the truck is in the middle of a turn with the truck’s cab facing oncoming traffic. This is deceiving to the driver on the other side of the road because it looks like the truck is traveling toward them in the other lane of the roadway. This may lead to the visual illusion that the trailer is straight behind the passenger vehicle in the other roadway not stretched out in their lane right in the path of their car.
Federal and state laws have been enacted to address the risks associated with tractor-trailer under-ride accidents, but these measures are often ignored or ineffective. Many trucking companies fail to implement the safety measures required by these regulations. Commercial trucks are now supposed to be only 22 inches or less off the ground to prevent cars from going underneath the rear of a trailer. Since 1993, trucks have been required to put reflective tape on the sides and rear of the truck so that they are more visible to other drivers. Dirty trucks and trucks that do not adhere to the rules mean that under-ride accidents still occur and kill people every year. Any occupant in a passenger vehicle who suffers serious injuries or wrongful death in a tractor-trailer under-ride accident may have a right to be compensated if the trucking company has failed to operate the vehicle and equip it to prevent trucking under-ride accidents. A passenger in a vehicle that is entrapped under a truck may also have a right to compensation from the driver of the passenger vehicle.