MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A FOX6 investigation has uncovered a real safety concern on the roads, and even through the government knows about it, nothing is being done!
Twenty-three years ago, Brenda Jones was nine months pregnant. Four days before she went into labor, her baby boy's father was killed in a car accident. His car ran into the back of a truck.
"I raised him as a single parent for half of his life and every day kept saying 'just let me get him. Let me be okay and keep me here until he`s grown,'" Jones said.
After high school, Jones' son enrolled at Purdue University. He played on the varsity bowling team.
This spring, he came home from college for a visit.
On the way to see his grandparents, he was killed in a motorcycle crash.
"I never thought he'd be gone too. On my birthday," Brenda Jones said.
Two months later, Brenda Jones says she had finally stopped crying. That's when the phone rang.
"It was someone from my husband`s work, asking if my husband was here -- they`ve been trying to reach him, they couldn`t reach him," Brenda Jones remembers.
Jones says she remembers hearing about a crash on the news. She says she just knew.
"I just -- I ran to the scene," Jones said.
Ben Jones was pinned underneath a semi on I-894.
Cameras caught the accident on tape. The video shows the semi moving at a snail's pace. While other drivers managed to swerve around him, Jones' husband wasn't so lucky. His pickup truck slid under the semi. Ben Jones was trapped and unconscious. He was prounounced dead at the scene.
"We just couldn`t keep him long enough to survive the crash," Jones said.
Witnesses said a special safety bar on the back of the semi had failed, which is how Jones' pickup truck got lodged underneath.
"I asked and was told that the bar had broken off," Brenda Jones said.
The bar is called an underride guard, and most semi-trailers are required to have them. The underride guards hang down off the backs of trailers, and they're supposed to keep cars from sliding underneath a truck during an accident.
However, time and time again, research shows they don't work. Hundreds of drivers die every year -- violent, preventable deaths.
"They had tried to help him at the scene. They had tried, but they couldn`t get to him because he ended up underneath the truck," Jones said.
No one routinely keeps track of how many people die this way. In 2011, the last time anyone counted, 260 people were found to have died in rear-end underride crashes -- two from Wisconsin.
That's one of the reasons State Patrol Inspector Mark Barlar takes his job so seriously. It's his job to make sure the bumper is no more than 22 inches off the ground, and the red and white candy stripe is visible. There can be no cracks, and no missing bolts.
However, even Barlar admits the closest inspection might not be enough to keep drivers safe. There's no way to test the guard to see if it really would hold up in a bad crash.
"There is no way for me to test structural integrity of it. If you could move it by hand that would be a bad thing," Barlar said.
Even if the bumper meets all the legal requirements, you could still be in danger.
Matt Brumbelow is a senior research engineer for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This spring, he and his colleagues released a study that concluded the current safety standards are not good enough.
"Roughly 3-5 years ago when we started seeing some of the crash data that made us wonder if something else could be done," Brumbelow said.
According to their findings, federal laws regulating semi-truck bumpers aren't cutting it. Their research was based on these crash tests. Even at speeds as slow as 30 miles per hour, the results were deadly. That's why Canadian guards are required to be twice as strong as the ones traveling on U.S. highways.
"The guard just breaks off the trailer. Canada said 'these aren't safe. We're going to make them safer,'" Brumbelow said.
Since 2011, the IIHS has been petitioning the federal government to make the same change in the United States -- to make drivers on our roads safer, but so far, nothing has been done -- so some manufacturers have taken safety into their own hands -- voluntarily making bumpers stronger.
"You want to put the safest vehicles you can on the road," Mark Matthiae, the president of Crystal Finishing in Wausau.
After seeing the videos, his company decided they wanted their trucks to have the safest guards out there, so they teamed up with Canadian manufacturer MANAC -- which has the strongest bumpers on the market.
"I just don`t understand why the manufacturers wouldn`t want to make that change. It looks to me like very little cost difference. In fact, it could almost be a cost savings if it`s designed properly," Matthiae said.
It makes sense to Brenda Jones too.
"If it means that maybe somebody can help someone else...it`s too late for us," Jones said.
Jones is a single mother...for the second time.
"You hear this little voice standing next to you say 'I can`t go to the father-daughter dance anymore or a little boy is having a meltdown because his dad had promised him fireworks on his first day of kindergarten, and Dad`s not here," Jones said.
The day before he died, Brenda Jones' husband put a flagpole in the family's front yard alongside a bench in memory of their son. It has now become a memorial for both of them.
"He should be here. There's no reason. They both should be here," Jones said.
After three years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has finally agreed to consider tougher standards for underride guards. Nothing is in place yet, but once the new rules take effect, experts say it will still be about 10 more years until all trucks on the road meet the new safety requirements.