What is wrong with this analysis of a fatal truck crash?

On July 27, 2017, three teens were killed when their car went under a truck in the state of Washington.  A report was published last week with a detective’s analysis of what led to their deaths. His conclusion bothered me because it represents the common misunderstanding of what causes people to die in truck crashes.

See if you can figure out what is missing in his analysis of this horrific truck crash.

Read the report from the lead detective below:

“There are several key factors involved in this collision that resulted in the death of three teenagers. . . Given the estimated speed of the driver’s vehicle it is unknown whether or not the rear bumper would have been able to withstand the impact to prevent an under-ride of the semi-trailer.

Driver had THC in system when car slammed into parked semi, killing 3 teens

 

 

When I see underride tragedies which involve a parked truck, I often wonder if the car driver was confused by the truck’s location and made the unconscious assumption that the road went that way and they would be following another vehicle in front of them by steering their car in that direction. This study/article addresses the visual challenges involved in split-second driving decisions: http://www.visualexpert.com/Resources/underride.html

Even if the car was going 35 mph and there had been a rear underride guard (designed to meet the current federal standard), the car would have gone under the truck. And in another crash earlier that year, a man rear-ended a truck which had an improved rear underride guard at perhaps 50 mph and survived!

3 thoughts on “What is wrong with this analysis of a fatal truck crash?

  1. This is why the most important thing is to avoid these crashes in the first place, by trucks traveling at normal speeds with proper rear conspiuity.

    1. Roy,
      I had to study this crash multiple times and look at several articles. What I finally recognized was that this was not what I thought at first.

      First of all, the trailer he hit was not moving; it was parked. And it was parked in a legal spot. The only thing was that it was parked backwards (in relation to the flow of traffic) and it was not hooked up to a tractor.

      I have seen so many news articles about cars rear-ending parked trailers. Of course, the reporter often tries to identify what might have accounted for the crash happening and also for the SEVERITY of the crash. Almost always, they will wonder whether SPEED was a factor.

      Two things here:

      1. In this case, rear conspicuity would not have made a difference. I am assuming that trailers do not have to have reflective tape on that section where they hook up to the tractor (I checked one out this morning in a parking lot).
      2. When I see underride tragedies which involve a parked truck, I often wonder if the car driver was confused by the truck’s location and made the unconscious assumption that the road went that way and they would be following another vehicle in front of them by steering their car in that direction. You have probably seen this study/article: http://www.visualexpert.com/Resources/underride.html

      1. Thanks, Marianne,

        A truck not moving is even worse than one traveling slowly. It is the most extreme case of violating other drivers’ expectations.

        If it was anywhere near the highway it doesn’t matter if it was legal; it was still an unconscionable hazard. Many things are legal that aren’t safe. This is a main part of our problem.

        Proper conspicuity should be the norm no matter which way the unit was turned; it should be easy to see from any angle. This case proves that.

        Your second idea is spot on, but as to your first one I must say that lack of proper conspicuity was critical in this case. Again, this crash proves that.

        Sincerely, Roy Crawford

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