Millions of cars and other passenger vehicles share the nation’s roads and highways daily with large commercial trucks, including 18-wheeler tractor-trailer rigs. In the vast majority of instances, they do so without collisions or other incidents. When those two classes of vehicles collide, however, the outcome is overwhelmingly to the detriment of the drivers and occupants of the passenger vehicles. When this type of accident involves a truck override, the results quite often are fatal for the people in the passenger vehicles involved.
Commercial Trucks Versus Passenger Vehicles: Trucks Win
“Win” might not be the right term for this match-up so much as “passenger vehicles lose.” Physics dictates that the larger, heavier object dominates in a collision with a lighter object. Commercial trucks such as tractor-trailer rigs weigh at least 10 times what the average passenger vehicle weighs, and often more. Naturally, this leads to one-sided results in truck-passenger vehicle collisions, as federal statistics make clear. In 2018 there were 531,000 accidents involving large commercial trucks, including 18-wheel tractor-trailers, resulting in 4,951 deaths and about 151,000 injuries. Out of those, more than 70% of fatalities and 72% of injuries were suffered by occupants of the passenger vehicles involved in those accidents. Many of those accidents did not involve truck overrides, but many did, and truck override accidents often are especially deadly.
What are Override Accidents, And Why are They So Dangerous?
Tractor-trailer rigs have a higher ground clearance than passenger vehicles – with the possible exception of Luke Bryan’s truck – meaning that when they collide with passenger vehicles, the 18-wheelers often ride over the passenger vehicles, hence the term “override accidents.” Unfortunately, when a vehicle the size of an 18-wheeler drives over a passenger vehicle – the total for the tractor and the trailer combined can be as much as 80,000 pounds, with the tractor alone weighing up to 20,000 pounds, while the average passenger car weighs only 4,000 pounds, and could weigh as little as 2,400 pounds – the results do not favor the passenger vehicle, to say the least. At best, an override accident results in the passenger vehicle suffering some pretty serious crushing beneath the 18-wheeler, and at worst the tractor-trailer rig drives straight over the passenger vehicle, shearing off the top of the passenger vehicle. This often results in either decapitation or significant, often fatal upper body injuries. Either way, the occupants of passenger vehicles in truck override accidents will not likely survive. Further, the passenger vehicle being overridden often is dragged along the roadway beneath the truck, lessening the odds of survival even more for the occupants of the car.
Override accidents occur in more than 70% of collisions between cars and tractor-trailers when the impact is on the front end of the truck, whether that is a head-on collision or the truck strikes the passenger vehicle from behind. Most occupants of the passenger vehicle involved in such accidents are either killed or severely injured. Override accidents can be the fault of the car driver or the truck driver. Common causes include:
The passenger vehicle entering a roadway from an on-ramp and pulling in front of a tractor-trailer that is driving faster than the car
- Changing lanes too closely in front of a truck
- Driving below the speed limit at night without displaying proper lights
- Truck drivers misgauging slowing or stopping distance and striking a passenger vehicle from behind
- Brake failure or defective tires on the truck
- Speeding on the part of the truck