Accidents in the Netherlands involving heavy motor vehicles

An analysis concerning underrun protection of rear ends compared to the sides and the front ends


Kampen, Ir. L.T.B. van



On behalf of the RDW Vehicle Technology & Information Centre, SWOV analysed accident data concerning heavy vehicles. Heavy vehicles are all motor vehicles with a total weight of more than 3500 kg (in EU-terms: all N2, N3, M2 and M3 vehicles, including their trailers). The question was whether accidents involving these heavy motor vehicles gave specific reason for concern regarding other road users with respect to underrun protection (the rear end compared to the sides and the front). SWOV used accident data of the Dutch Ministry of Transport and analysed them in detail, focussing on two-vehicle accidents. Selected accidents were grouped according to collision type (rear, side, front and not classifiable) and vehicle type (lorry, semi-trailer tractor and bus), as well as to type of opponent vehicle (car, van, motorcycle, moped, cycle and other heavy vehicles). The injury risk in accidents involving heavy vehicles appears to be far greater for occupants of opponent vehicles than for occupants of the heavy vehicles. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that only 5% of the drivers of heavy vehicles were injured at all, against 87% of the drivers of opponent vehicles, 32% of whom were severely injured (fatal or hospitalized). Buses seem to be less aggressive than lorries and semi-trailer tractors, the latter type causing the largest share of seriously injured drivers of opponent vehicles. This difference in aggressiveness explained by different accident circumstances of the three heavy vehicle types. Buses, mainly public transport vehicles, had most of their accidents within city limits. However, a large share of accidents involving semi-trailer tractors took place in rural areas or on highways, where accident severity is greater due to higher driving speeds. As far as collision type is concerned, the percentage of severely injured drivers of opponent vehicles was 27% for accidents involving the rear end of heavy vehicles. The percentages for heavy vehicles hit at the side and hit at the front were 32% and 35% respectively. There is a slight decrease in the overall number of accidents involving heavy vehicles over the years 1985 to 1997, although the number of heavy vehicles on the road and the number of vehicle kilometres travelled have increased. The absolute number of accidents involving heavy vehicles with rear-end damage is far lower than the number of heavy vehicles with side damage. The number of heavy vehicles with frontal damage is the highest of the three. The same order applies to the numbers of casualties in opponent vehicles. This does not necessarily mean that improvement of front underrun protection should have priority above improvement of side underrun protection or rear underrun protection. To reach this kind of decision, it is recommended to gather additional data, especially about cost and effectiveness of devices for underrun protection at the different sides of heavy vehicles

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