Questions Over Safety of Guardrail Redesign

Brian Ross investigates guardrail allegations.
3:28 | 09/19/14

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Transcript for Questions Over Safety of Guardrail Redesign
Now to the safety concerns about guardrails on the nation's roads. A new lawsuit says a common type of guardrail can potentially cause serious injury or even death in some accidents. ABC Brian Ross is back and has that story for us. Good morning, again. And this is about twisted metal, lost limbs and painful death. An ABC news investigation into a fixture on American highways, part of a huge controversy, producing outrage from motorists across the country. Just after midnight O interstate 40 in North Carolina, where a guardrail meant to protect almost killed. Oh, my god. I'm going to die. Reporter: The motorist hit the guardrail head on after nodding off. And the long, steel rail, seen in this photo from behind the driver and passengers seats sliced through the SUV and then cut off his legs. I've lost my legs in a wreck. Are you saying you've lost both your legs, sir? Yeah. Reporter: In another case, 31-year-old Rebecca Dreier, a single mom from Pennsylvania lost her right leg after hitting a guardrail during a rainstorm. I didn't realize it was essentially a spear and came through my car. Reporter: Now she and others are suing the company that makes them, Trinity industries of Texas. Saying there's something wrong with hundreds of thousands of their guardrails across the country. My sneaking suspicious is this is really just the tip of the iceberg. Reporter: As seen in this test video, thanks to the design of the end terminal, guard rails are supposed to absorb a direct hit, even at 62 miles an hour without turning into deadly spears. But according to people suing Trinity, including this competitor, they changed by just an inch some of the ends, disrupting the basic physics of the device. This is is classic failure. They are supposed to save your life, and they're not. Reporter: In fact the inventor, Dr. Dean sicking, a LE leading investigator on impact, now studying football injuries, said the changes were done without his knowledge. I was not involved in the change and never UND it. Reporter: According to internal documents, Trinity engineers said shaving off an inch would say $2 for each end terminal. That's $250,000 in five years by using the 4 inch channel, the memo reads. They said they have passed crash tests like this one and met all federal standards. Many question whether the crash test in ideal conditions reflect what happens in the real world. Rebecca Dwyer says she knows too well what happens in the real world and says it's now time for the Trinity guardrails to be taken off the highways. How many more people do you want to lose limbs and go through all of this? Reporter: But for now, those guardrails terminals remain on the road all across the country. Federal highway officials tell ABC news today a nationwide review of the safety and performance of all guardrails is now being planned. We see those all the time and never stop to think. Hidden hazard. And Brian, more of his report

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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