The U.S. Department of Transportation is reviewing its standards for rear-impact safety guards on tractor trailers in response to a petition started by a mother, who lost her two daughters in a truck collision. Washington bureau reporter Geoff Bennett filed the following report.
Safety advocates are pushing for tougher standards for underride guards -- the metal barrier on the backs of most large trucks designed to keep drivers from sliding underneath during a crash.
Marianne Karth of Rocky Mount, N.C., says stronger guards might have saved the lives of her two teenage daughters. In May 2013, Karth was driving in heavy rain with three of her nine children when a tractor-trailer rear-ended her car, hurling it under another truck.
"And the underride guard failed so that the car went right under it," Karth said.
AnnaLeah Karth, 17, died in the crash. While Marianne and her son Caleb were in the hospital for their injuries, 13-year-old Mary Karth was taken to a different hospital two hours away, where she died a few days later.
"I couldn't leave my hospital. I never saw her again," Marianne Karth said. "She was a Jane Doe for a while. I couldn't hold her hand, I couldn't comfort her. She was just 13 years old, and for hours, until my husband could finally come to Georgia from North Carolina, they didn't even know her name."
Marianne Karth now keeps a box with her daughter's braids inside.
"Well, it's the only physical thing I have left of her," she said.
"Every day without them is a little bit darker because they're not there," said Isaac Karth, one of AnnaLeah's and Mary Karth's brothers.
The Karths have honored their lost daughters and channeled their grief by advocating for better underride guard designs.
They have raised money for research and were succesful in convincing regulators to start a formal review of existing safety regulations. They are now petitioning the Department of Transportation to make highway safety rules based on safety and not on how much the measures will cost.
"Lives are at stake here," Marianne Karth said.