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Guardrail Deaths Raise Safety Questions

We expect the roads we drive on to be safe. With our tax dollars at work, we expect everything from the pavement below us to the signs above us to be thoroughly researched and crafted with safety in mind. But recent fatal guardrail accidents are calling into question the way our government oversees our roads and the materials used to protect drivers. 

Guardrail accidents in Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee and Missouri have ended tragically for victims who run into the end terminals. In such accidents, the guardrail failed to act as it was designed to do. Guardrails are meant to fold under the pressure of a colliding vehicle, slowing down a car careening off the side of the road and bringing it to a relatively safe spot. Instead, these guardrails are impaling vehicles and the drivers and passengers inside. 

So just who is in charge of ensuring these devices work as intended? Many times, safety tests of guardrails are conducted by the companies who create and sell the guardrails – not the government itself. Too often, the guardrails aren’t truly put to the test until a real accident occurs. One safety advocate compared the situation to foxes guarding hen houses.

Without proper government oversight, the guardrail industry is unlikely to change. Taxpayers deserve safe devices on the roads they pay for, and the current guardrail options are simply unacceptable. Though there have been some victories for the families of victims – one guardrail manufacturer was ordered to pay $663 million after a jury found them guilty of fraud – more needs to change.