Tunneling in the one-dimensional Eckart system is treated by a semiclassical method that describes the S-matrix in terms of an integral over the initial momenta of real-valued classical trajectories. The results are found to be sensitive to a certain parameter γ which is expected to be essentially arbitrary for classically allowed processes. Analysis of the semiclassical error allows formulation of conditions for the validity of the tunneling treatment. This, in turn, leads to an explanation for the sensitivity of the results to γ and an understanding of how this parameter should be chosen. With an optimized choice, the semiclassical method is found to yield very accurate tunneling results even for probabilities as small as 10-10. The relationship between the present method and the conventional uniform semiclassical treatment of barrier tunneling is discussed.