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First responders train to save lives during underride crashes

Wayne Township Fire Dept. uses new equipment
Wayne Township firefighters train for underride crashes, which is when a car slides underneath a truck either from the side or the rear.
Posted at 3:00 PM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-23 19:26:30-05

INDIANAPOLIS — First responders are seeing an increase in underride crashes on central Indiana roadways, which is when a car slides underneath a semi-truck either from the side or the rear.

Captain Todd Taylor of the Wayne Township Fire Department says underride crashes are becoming even more common as speeds and traffic increase.

"The more volume you have out there, the quicker things come to a stop,” Taylor said. “When they come to a stop very quickly, nobody is prepared for that."

Underride crashes can often be deadly or result in serious head and neck injuries to the driver and passengers.

Firefighters are often the first people to arrive at a car crash scene, but underride crashes create some unique challenges for first responders.

“The problem is once the car gets underneath the semi, it's very difficult to rescue procedures,” Taylor said. “We have the load itself which could be up to 60,000 pounds in that trailer that we have to move off of the vehicle to get the victim out."

When someone is trapped underneath a big truck, every minute counts.

Just last week, a man survived a side underride crash on Interstate 465 after Wayne Township firefighters freed him from the twisted metal.

UnderrideWayne6.jpg
A driver had to be removed from a car after an underride crash on Interstate 465.

They use new tools like a hydraulic lift to lift the truck off of the car, as well as the jaws of life.

Taylor said the tools have allowed them to cut rescue times from an hour down to just 20 minutes.

"It's the extrication time, it's the time going from the scene to the hospital that's going to save somebody's life,” Taylor said. “We've increased our training and added capabilities and now we have rescue tools so we can actually pull those vehicles out. It's amazing."

Taylor said the best thing you can do is to stay out of a truck’s blind spot and give them some room, and when you see a fire truck or ambulance respond to a scene, give them some room to get by.

More than 200 people die every year in the United States from underride crashes.

Christina Hammack, of Jeffersonville, lost her daughter, Erin, at the age of 22 on May 4, 2018, when a tractor-trailer on a wet highway went sideways over the top of Erin’s car.

PREVIOUS | Indiana mother pushes for tougher underride guard standards

"We got that call and our lives were just turned upside down,” Hammack said. “Once I found out how it happened, the horror ensued. It's left us a big hole."

The new infrastructure law calls on federal regulators to conduct research on side underride guards.

The bill’s language also calls for upgrades to the federal regulation for rear underride guards.

It also calls for guards that can hold up in a 35 mph crash in a full overlap and 50 percent overlap configuration, which is when half of the car’s width overlaps the rear of the truck.

The law also requires underride guards to be added to the Commercial Motor Vehicle Annual Inspection list, which goes into effect next month, on Dec. 9.

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