Two articles from the New York Times discuss the potential danger of some highway guardrails. One article mentions that the Justice Department has started an investigation into a particular guardrail maker, Trinity Industries. A more recent article mentions new rules to come from the Federal Highway Administration.
So What’s Wrong with the Guardrails?
Guardrails manufactured by Trinity Industries, called ET-Plus, underwent changes in 2005. These changes are suspected of making the guardrail units more likely to jam when a vehicle hits them head on, and thus causing the metal rail to pierce the vehicle. This has caused drivers and passengers to suffer from terrible injuries. Trinity failed to disclose the changes it made to their guardrails. Because of the lack of disclosure, the new units were not crash-tested or approved by the Federal Highway Administration.
This issue came to light from a whistleblower lawsuit filed against Trinity in which Trinity was accused of making changes to the ET-Plus guardrail and failing to disclose of those changes. The jury in that case found the company liable for defrauding the government by failing to disclose. As discussed in the NY Times article, back in April the U.S. Department of Justice opened a criminal investigation involving the ET-Plus guardrail due to the whistleblower case. The Justice Department in fact is seeking documents and other records associated with the case according to the New York Times.
New Rules for Guardrails
According to the New York Times, the Federal Highway Administration published new rules regarding guardrails that will take effect next year. The rules require that when a manufacturer makes a modification to an existing roadside device, it must go through a crash-test in accordance with strict safety measures, regardless of whether it was deemed safe in the past. This rule should close the loophole that allowed guardrail makers to revise older devices without undergoing crash tests, as occurred with the ET-Plus.
What Can You Do?
As always, the Team at McDivitt wants everyone to drive safely while out on the road. The intention of all guardrails is to help drivers when things go wrong. However, it is still paramount that we drive carefully. For more information on safe driving check out the following blogs: