The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says it's high time the trucking industry makes some changes that could save hundreds of lives each year - and is out with some dramatic video to support its argument, reports CBS News National Correspondent Jim Axelrod.
In one such video, a Chevy Malibu, which gets a 5-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, hits the back of a tractor-trailer at 35 miles per hour. Hitting a brick wall would actually be safer, given all the advances in safety technology, Axelrod observes, as steel guards hanging from the back of the truck fail to keep the car from continuing under the truck.
"When you hit a large truck, that crash protection is just bypassed," says IIHS President Adrian Lund. "We're talking about the occupants actually making direct contact with their heads with the back of the trailer."
More than 400 people die each year from what's called "underride," when the car slips under the back of the truck, Axelrod points out.
The insurance institute would like to see new rules strengthening the guards and the way they're attached to the trailers, Axelrod says.
It would be only the second time 58 years the federal government implemented new regulations regarding underride guards.
Even the trucking industry says it's time to do something. "There's clearly a step that probably needs to be taken," Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves told Axelrod. " ... What the federal government thought was adequate a number of years ago when these specifications were developed is probably not adequate today."
The NHTSA says it's aware of the problem but isn't making any commitments about developing new regulations anytime soon.