Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dangerous Guardrail Designs

Lawsuits seek records on guardrail-design change that some blame for horrific crashes.

Scripps Howard News Service (5/19, Walsh, 132) reports on a January 27 accident in which North Carolina motorist Jay Traylor lost both legs after his Isuzu Trooper “slammed head-on into a guardrail” that cut into the SUV. The report, which includes audio of Traylor’s 911 call excerpted in a video report by E.W. Scripps-owned KNXV-TV of Phoenix, says Traylor, who now uses prosthetic legs, has sued guardrail manufacturer Trinity Highway Products, whose president, Scripps Howard reports, “acknowledged the company failed to update” FHWA of a 2005 design change for the head of its ET-Plus guardrail until 2012 but also said the change isn’t a safety threat. Traylor’s suit, as well as similar ones around the US, claim Trinity engineers “reduced the feeder channel and guardrail head size.” FHWA said it had tested Trinity’s updated ET-Plus with a 4-inch guardrail head in 2005 “and found it met all safety standards,” but the agency explained that it thought it was testing a 5-inch head and still hasn’t issued “a formal approval letter for” the smaller version.

        Safety Research & Strategies, (5/19) a transportation watchdog mentioned in both the Scripps Howard and KNXV reports, posted on its own website news of its lawsuit filed in Florida seeking to force that state’s DOT to release documents related to Trinity about “the design, manufacture, failure, purchase and testing” of the company’s ET-Plus guardrails. Dallas-based Trinity “has been under fire since 2012,” when a competitor charged that “Trinity modified the design of its guardrail end terminals, causing [them] to perform poorly in crashes and injure and kill occupants in striking vehicles.” SRS announced last week that it was suing FHWA for disclosure of documents “regarding the safety of guardrail end terminals used on highways nationwide.” 

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