Guardrails are designed to keep you from going off the road and although they’ll scrape the daylights out of your car should you hit one, it’s better than the alternative. They keep you from rolling into a lake or ditch or down some deadly cliff, but now this bit of metal designed to save could actually cause a lot of harm.
Texas-based Trinity Industries manufactures something called the ET-Plus which features a metal plate at the end as a part of a new design. Despite intending to be safer, there have now been reports that this metal plate has caused vehicle occupants to become impaled. Yeah, that’s a problem.
Another problem is that the company never properly notified federal authorities of the design change resulting in them getting a fine of over a half a billion dollars. The Federal Highway Administration also wants them to further investigate the safety of the terminals.
As a result of the call for additional testing to make sure the guardrails are safe, ten states banned the product from use and three additional states have since made them illegal. Now it looks like Trinity is deciding to take action of its own while the safety of the product is debated.
The Texas Transportation Institute has been testing roadside barriers for decades. This video shows how guardrails are supposed to react when struck:
They have stopped the sale of the ET-Plus and have cancelled any existing orders for the product. What happens next all hinges on FHA testing which will determine if the guardrails really are safe, or if they’re a hazard and should not be on the sides of our roads as is and require modification to work as intended.
The New York Times noted that 14 states have banned the use of the guardrail:
Oddly, you an still find the ET-Plus on their site as well as a description that states that “The ET-Plus is an NCHRP Report 350 Test Level 2 and Test Level 3 compliant cable anchored system and is acceptable for use on the National Highway System.”
IMAGE SOURCE: New York Times, YouTube