What's supposed to prevent a crash like this from becoming lethal is a Mansfield Bar, so named because the low-hanging bar affixed to the rear of semi truck trailers became mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after the death of popular movie actress Jayne Mansfield in 1967 from a rear-end collision with a tractor trailer.
The Mansfield Bar is designed to prevent under-riding, and in 1998, the rules governing them were revised to lower the bar to 22 inches off the ground. Even at the height, some vehicles, including sports cars like the Corvette, have leading edges that are low enough to clear them. That's particularly true when the car in question is braking hard and its weight is pitched forward, lowering the nose even more).
As we reported earlier today, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has conducted tests on currently sold tractor trailors and found that while all of the examples tested prevented under-riding during a full-width crash, their effectiveness fell sharply when the overlap of vehicle and bar was reduced to 50 percent and 30 percent. In the latter case, only one trailer managed to prevent under-riding, despite all of the trailers passing current US and Canadian crash standards.
Fortunately for this man, the combination of the crash-worthiness of the Corvette, the Mansfield Bar on the truck – and the fact that he had enough wits about him to duck at the last minute – all combined to save his life.