This change took 60 years to get up in the US. Any lessons for motorcycle advocacy? http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-16/dead-girls-mom-says-100-truck-fix-may-have-saved-them.html?hootPostID=3dc88257315c8627775f9194c1a0368d <Justus: text added> A truck design change that could save lives costs about $100. It has yet to be adopted by regulators and that says a lot about the state of safety on U.S. highways The design fix by trailer maker Manac (MA) Inc., one of several under consideration, is simple: Wider spacing of support bars that hang from the end of truck trailers to prevent cars from sliding underneath. Marianne Karth says it might have saved the lives of her two teenage daughters, AnnaLeah and Mary, who died in a 2013 crash. Karth was driving a blue Crown Victoria that was hit by one tractor trailer and slid under another truck, despite its steel bar. Since recovering from her own injuries, Karth has devoted her life to prodding regulators for tougher standards on the bars, called underride guards, and for requiring them on more trucks. And she has managed to succeed where other safety advocates and insurance industry researchers have failed over the last two decades, convincing regulators to begin a formal review of existing safety regulations. “It is frustrating when the data aren’t enough, but let’s face it, they frequently aren’t enough,” said Adrian Lund, president of the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “You need something to motivate the wheels of government to move. Marianne Karth did that.” While Karth, 59, is no engineering expert, she says she is motivated by the loss of her daughters and the thousands of others who, like them, have needlessly died over the decades in underride accidents. “You’ve got all the people it affects: parents, children, family, friends,” said Karth. “Just imagine all those people whose lives are forever changed, and it keeps adding up year after year after year.” The passion that Karth brings to the debate won’t necessarily solve the problem, said Sean McNally, a spokesman for the American Trucking Associations, the industry’s largest advocacy group. Instead, regulators will be more effective if they focus on such measures as crash-avoidance technology and such simple steps as education to encourage better driving by both trucks and cars. “All crashes are tragic, and as a result discussions about highway safety are often touched by strong emotions,” McNally said. “However, we should not use emotions as the basis for regulations. Regulations need to be grounded on strong research, science and data.” Two Steel Bars An underride guard isn’t complex. It typically consists of two vertical steel bars extending down from the truck frame and supporting a horizontal bar that’s as wide as the truck and nearly two feet above the road. The device has been required in some form on most tractor-trailers since 1953. Because trucks sit higher on the road than cars, they catch cars before they can slide under a truck in a collision, enabling air bags, crumple zones, and seat belts to save passengers. . When the bars work, people can walk away. When they fail, the results can be horrific. Such crashes claim about 400 deaths from cars hitting the back of trucks and about 125 with underride severe enough for the guards to intrude into the passenger compartments, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The crash impact often shears off the tops of cars, crushing and decapitating victims. Those who survive can be left with traumatic brain injuries or paralysis. The last time the problem got national attention was in 1967, when actress Jayne Mansfield and two others died in a Buick Electra that slid under a tractor trailer. Three of her children sitting in the back survived the crash, including 3-year-old Mariska Hargitay, who now plays detective Olivia Benson in the TV series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” After the publicity surrounding Mansfield’s death, regulators said they would strengthen the standards. Proposals crept along, then stalled. New regulations finally came in 1996, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revised standards on the size of guards and their strength. NHTSA lowered the maximum guard-to-ground distance to 22 inches, starting in 1998. Regulators also required reflective tape on trucks. Yet people continued to die in underride accidents. “The federal government has been trying to do something about this issue at different levels for well over 60 years,” said David Friedman, NHTSA’s deputy administrator and top official. “We need to do more. We can do more. But there’s a lot of work that has to go into strengthening those standards.” The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, a group representing trailer makers, is waiting for the regulatory process to unfold. “The industry is already self-regulating, in that they have exceeded U.S. regulations,” said Jeff Sims, president of the group. “Where requested, we are cooperating.” Lund’s organization, the insurance institute, measures the crashworthiness of vehicles. It petitioned U.S. regulators for change in 2011 after testing bars on trailers built by three companies to federal standards. Cars with crash-test dummies slammed into the bars, which buckled or broke in several tests. The trailers often broke through the windshields. Regulators at NHTSA didn’t respond to IIHS or comment publicly. The institute, which has studied underride crashes for decades, ran more tests in March 2013 on guards made by eight companies that met U.S. standards and tougher Canadian guidelines. While the steel bars performed better than those in 2011, seven failed when cars hit their outside edge. Only Manac of Saint-Georges, Quebec, passed all the tests.