Guardrail Head

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A Texas lawmaker is advocating for annual guardrail inspection reports following a series of tragic accidents in her state. State Senator Sylvia Garcia recently told reporters she wanted to see guardrail inspection reports released to the general public. At present, Texas guardrails along bridges are inspected every two years, but others are inspected only as needed. The inspection reports aren’t released to the public.

Texas has put a moratorium on the controversial Trinity ET Plus guardrail model, which has been known to malfunction. When it fails, the guardrail pierces vehicles, often amputating or killing passengers inside. When working as intended, guardrails should thread the end terminal and spiral backward under the weight of the car, bringing it to a safer stop.

That hasn’t always happened, experts say. Though the ET Plus has passed federal safety tests and remains on the national list of approved guardrails, Texas Department of Transportation has not lifted their moratorium. Other states have put similar policies into effect for the ET Plus guardrail end terminal.

The device may or may not be inherently dangerous – the jury is still out on that. But there’s no denying the danger of improperly installed guardrails of any maker or manufacturer. That’s why increased inspections could be so valuable for public safety.

We applaud lawmakers who advocate for more transparency from the folks responsible for maintaining our roads. With leaders like Senator Garcia fighting for the public’s safety, we can only hope these guardrail accidents will soon be a thing of the past. Until then, though, more pressure needs put on regulators to be more strict about the safety devices that are found on our nation’s roads.

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.

With crash tests of the controversial ET-Plus guardrail currently underway, many transportation officials are awaiting the results to determine the future of the device on the nation’s roads. One critic, however, says the crash tests should not be the determining factor in that crucial decision. In fact, whistleblower Joshua Harman says, the crash tests are not even testing the same model of ET-Plus that are currently installed around the country.

The difference lies in a small dimensional difference between a model released in 2012 and ET-Plus models created before that year. The 2012 model includes a heightened 5 inch metal piece that allegedly performs better in crash tests and is generally more safe than other models. This version of the ET-Plus is more expensive to manufacture, and courtroom documents revealed that Trinity Industries produced another model to cut corners. Those other models, with the unapproved 4 inch guardrail head, are “death traps,” Harman told reporters.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is the first in the country to announce steps toward removing the ET-Plus devices from their roads. A spokesperson told that if any of the crash tests in Texas fail, VDOT will move forward with removing and replacing the defective models. That said, the process will likely take years. There are thousands of ET-Plus guardrail heads throughout the Commonwealth.

With four of the eight crash tests completed, Trinity Industries expects to finish up the testing process by the end of the month. If anything goes wrong in the remaining tests, it is likely more and more states will remove the ET-Plus from their roads and highways.

An independent review of the Trinity Guardrail safety study has found flaws in the methodology of the research and in the conclusions drawn by the study. The review, commissioned by the Federal Highway Administration, questioned the methods of the study, since it excludes minor crashes and looks solely at high-speed, high-volume highways. The study also fails to account for variables like speed limit and road conditions.

The study was originally released in October, causing dozens of states across the country to ban or suspend the installation of the ET-Plus guardrail end terminal. Conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the study found that the ET-Plus was four times more likely than previous models to be involved in a deadly crash. The study’s findings seemed to back up the reports that cars of accident victims were being speared by the ET-Plus on impact, often severing limbs and causing fatal injuries. But the independent review of the study calls the results “inappropriate” and “questionable.” Ultimately, experts say, the University of Alabama study may not paint an accurate representation of how the ET-Plus functions.

The review of the study comes on the heels of lawmakers pushing for stricter crash testing to determine the future of the guardrail end terminal on our country’s roads. The FHWA recently publicly called for information on accidents involving the ET-Plus. Continued crash tests will reveal if the ET-Plus is indeed acting as designed or malfunctioning, but thus far, the guardrail head has held up to expected safety standards.

Seriously Injured in an Accident Involving a Guardrail?

Our Guardrail Injury Lawyers are currently investigating serious and fatal guardrail accidents related to this potentially dangerous guardrail design. If you or a loved one were injured in an accident with a guardrail, contact our attorneys to discuss your legal options. We offer a free, no obligation, case evaluation – Get Help Now 877-544-5323

Federally mandated crash tests of a controversial highway safety device are underway in San Antonio, Texas. The company who manufactures the ET-Plus guardrail end terminal, Trinity Industries, has been under much scrutiny this year. A Texas judge found that the company had defrauded the government by changing the design of the ET-Plus without notifying officials. Since this revelation, forty states have suspended or banned the installation of the guardrail on their roads and highways.

The Federal Highway Administration has since requested that a series of crash tests be conducted to prove the safety – or potential danger – of the ET-Plus. In the most recent test, a Geo Metro traveling at 62 mph collided head on with the Et-Plus. Reports say that the car was damaged, with most of the bumper coming completely off. While the guardrail did not spear the vehicle (as many real word accident reports involving the ET-Plus have indicated), the rail did not ribbon out as it should. Instead, the guardrail crumpled into a zig zag pattern.

Four of the eight crash tests have now been completed, with the next test scheduled for January 14. The remaining tests will involve a 27 3/4 inch height ET-Plus guardrail. Size has been a major concern in the ET-Plus investigation, as Trinity Industries has changed the size of their product multiple times without alerting officials. Experts say the size of the materials used could be the reason why the guardrails are malfunctioning. The next four tests will involve exit gaps of just 1 inch – the minimum standard industry size.

Seriously Injured in an Accident Involving a Guardrail?

Our Guardrail Injury Lawyers are currently investigating serious and fatal guardrail accidents related to this potentially dangerous guardrail design. If you or a loved one were injured in an accident with a guardrail, contact our attorneys to discuss your legal options. We offer a free, no obligation, case evaluation – Get Help Now 877-544-5323