Due to the massive size of big rig trucks it is widely known that an accident involving a big rig truck and a passenger vehicle has the potential to be catastrophic. What many people often underestimate is the importance of the other vehicle in determining the injury level of its occupants. There are many factors affecting the impact and subsequent damage delivered in an accident with an 18-wheeler, and we will cover some that are considered most important.
It should come as no surprise that one of the most important aspects of how well the occupants of the non-big rig fare in an accident depends on the presence and types of safety feature on their vehicle.
- Airbags – Airbags are a major life-saving safety feature. Front airbags have been standard on all cars since 1998 and on trucks, vans, and SUVs since 1999. However, in recent years, side-impact airbags (SABs) have been gaining ground. There are three types of SABs: head, chest, and head & chest, or “combo,” side air bags.
- Anti-lock brakes – Anti-lock brake systems are designed to keep the vehicle from skidding and careening out of control. To do this, the system rapidly pumps the brakes to keep them from locking. Anti-lock brakes are an important tool for avoiding accidents in the first place.
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC) – Electronic stability control or ESC is a safety feature on vehicles that is designed to help prevent rollovers. Since rollovers are the most deadly types of accidents, this makes ESCs very important safety features, especially on top heavy vehicles (like SUVs and pick-up trucks) that may already be prone to rolling over.
- Collision Engineering – Another important element of safety is how well the vehicle has been engineered to handle a collision. An example of this is the Advanced Compatibility Engineering offered by Honda, which is used to minimize the damage the occupants of the vehicle take in the event of a collision. This is accomplished by using multiple grades of steel so that the car can bend and fold where needed to diffuse the impact, yet remain rigid and stable in crucial safety areas.
An impact with a big rig truck is already an extremely serious event. If the vehicle rolls over as a result of the impact then the risk of major injury to the occupants increases many times. Cars are the least likely type of vehicle to roll over due to their lower centers of gravity. By contrast, SUVs pose a known elevated risk of rollover. The good news is that advances in engineering, as well as systems like ECS discussed above, have dramatically decreased the risk of rollover in newer vehicles.
A common vehicle safety quote is that there is no repealing the law of physics. What this means is that larger, heavier vehicles will naturally sustain less damage in an accident. An unfortunate corollary is that they are naturally inclined to inflict more damage than smaller vehicles. This is what makes accidents with 18-wheelers so deadly. Despite the fact that no passenger vehicle can compete with a commercial truck in terms of size, larger vehicles do fare better in an accident with one.
It may surprise some readers to learn that statistically all types of vehicles have been getting safer. Safety features, design and engineering, and materials have all steadily progressed to make the average new car safer than a decade or older counterpart. Statistically, today’s driver is automatically safer just by virtue of driving newer vehicles. This trend toward greater vehicle safety has remained fairly stable over many years, which points toward an even safer future.
While vehicles themselves have been getting safer, another important element is driver behavior. People are now more likely to buckle up and avoid drinking and driving than they were in previous generations. These safe practices can be extended and expanded on at the individual level. Drivers should obey traffic laws, avoid excessive speed and weaving in and out of traffic, and maintain safe following distances. These are important safe driving steps in a general sense, but they are especially important when drivers are sharing the roads with big rig trucks.