The Guardrails That Failed to Guard

Road traffic accidents, unfortunate as they can be, are commonplace. They range from the minor, inconsequential ones with little or no damage to life and property, to major ones that involve significant material and financial loss in addition to severe injuries, and even one or more casualties. These accidents become downright tragic though when you realize that they could have been prevented if certain precautions had been exercised.

Tragedy in the Making

A case in example is Jay Traylor, a former Marine who hit an ET-Plus guardrail after falling asleep while driving his car on the I-40 near Raleigh, North Carolina. On impact, the guardrail folded into a wedge shape and pierced the floor of his car’s passenger cabin between the gas pedal and the brake, and severed both of his legs.

The guardrail in question, the Trinity ET-Plus 4-inch model, is designed by Trinity Industries of Dallas, and is one of nine different types used by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation statewide. This particular model is also used in various other states, in addition to a number of countries as well. It has, however, come under fire recently for what drivers claim is an inherent design flaw which results in poor performance frequently and has crippled and even killed drivers.

The Case

Jay Traylor has since filed a lawsuit against Trinity Industries, citing the design flaw, and he is not alone. Joshua Harman, a manufacturer who oversaw the production of similar guardrails for three years, identified a pattern in the road accidents that involved these guardrails. He ordered production to be ceased immediately in his factories, then had the faulty guardrails replaced, and started collecting evidence from around the US so that he could put together a case for a recall of all faulty guardrails.

Harman then took his findings to FOX23 News, stating that there were certain similarities between a spate of accidents, and that in each case, contrary to design specifications, the guardrails had failed to blow out like a buffer in order to stop the car. Instead, the rail would bend into a shard edge upon impact, as the head failed during the collision, and would penetrate the passenger cabin, thus causing injuries and fatalities.

Harman’s claims were then taken by FOX23 to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), who claim that while they would evaluate each accident case on individual merit, the ET-Plus guardrails do conform to the ODOT standards established by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and that the guardrails had served their purpose.

Trinity Industries too, continue to defend the integrity of their ET-Plus System, claiming they will fight the lawsuit, as the Federal Highway Administration still accepts the ET-Plus System with confidence in its performance.