NHTSA aims to strengthen safety devices that have failed in dead - WSMV News 4

NHTSA aims to strengthen safety devices that have failed in deadly crashes

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Nearly four years after the Channel 4 I-Team exposed how a Middle Tennessee man died when a safety device underneath a semi-truck failed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing rule changes that would strengthen the devices.

NHTSA wants to make underride guards stronger and able to withstand crashes at a higher speed. Click here to read the full proposal.

The underride guards are steel beams underneath trailers and semi-trucks that are designed to prevent someone from sliding underneath the truck when a crash occurs.

But an I-Team investigation in 2012 showed how in a 50-car pileup on Vietnam Veterans Boulevard, Paul Warren’s car slid underneath a semi and the underride guard broke.

Warren, a newlywed at the time, died in the crash. Click here to watch the I-Team’s initial investigation.

The rules proposed by the NHTSA are in part because of mother Marianne Karth.

A year and a half before Warren died, two of Karth’s daughters died when their car slid underneath a semi-truck and the underride guard failed to protect them.

"I don't know if you can even imagine what would be like to have this unexpected loss,” Karth said.

Karth has now made it her life mission to improve underride guards, and has made a series of videos to show how the failed safety device impacted her life. You can watch them here.

Karth said when she found the I-Team’s investigation into Warren’s death, it made her even angrier.

"Seeing things like your report and others who have reported, showing that these underride guards too often fail,” Karth said.

Karth had also seen the videos the I-Team first obtained in 2012 from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety that repeatedly showed how underride guards failed in crashes.

Those video were made years before her daughters’ deaths, and to this day, no changes have been made.

"To me, it's like them saying my daughters are not worth doing something which could be done to bring about safety to save lives,” Karth said.

While NHTSA’s proposed rules strengthen the underride guards and make them stronger to better withstand if a car hits the beam head on, they don’t address what the I-Team uncovered happened in Warren’s case.

The I-Team found Warren slid underneath at an angle, and the beam was just pushed aside.

"We feel it (the proposed rules) falls short,” Karth said.

But Karth is still encouraged that some changes could be coming, she just feels they’ve taken too long to become reality.

"Something could have been done a long time ago and hasn't,” Karth said.

The I-Team’s investigation found there isn’t a single manufacturer of underride guards to hold accountable.

NHTSA’s proposed rules would only impact the trucks of the future, not require current underride guards be replaced.

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