Are the ends of guardrails unsafe for northeast Florida drivers?

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Channel 4 has another good read on their website!  It is on a subject that I have not thought too much about, but I will next time I am traveling on the highway.  I will be looking for these guardrails.

Guardrails,  they are designed to keep drivers safe, but new questions are being raised about their safety.  Channel 4 reports that family after family are coming forward after accidents, saying the guardrails are failing and making accidents worse.  The station has uncovered a state investigation into the guardrails found along Interstates 10 and 95.  Traffic experts say the guardrails simply don’t work. It’s not the rail thats the actual problem. It’s the guardrail end.  When a car hits this end, the guardrail is supposed to buckle and cushion the impact of the vehicle. But in several instances, the metal has impaled the car.

A test conducted in 1999 shows a Trinity Industries ET-Plus guardrail in action. A truck slams the front of the guardrail, and the rail curls away like a steel ribbon. That’s what is supposed to happen.  “This is a work of art. This actually works perfectly,” said Joshua Harmon, who’s at the center of a whistle-blower lawsuit against the company.  Harman says something is seriously wrong with hundreds of thousands of Trinity guardrail systems on roadsideshttp://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-06-19/highway-guardrails-are-killing-drivers-says-industry-insider across the U.S. Claiming federal whistle-blower status, he’s suing the company and its Dallas-based owner, Trinity Industries, on behalf of U.S. taxpayers, claiming the company made quiet design changes that transformed guardrails intended to reduce injuries into potentially deadly hazards.

Harman’s suit alleges that Trinity changed the ET-Plus’s dimensions between 2002 and 2005 without telling federal authorities. Instead of acting like a shock absorber, he claims inthe modified ET-Plus can lock up, behaving more like a giant spear that impales cars and sometimes the people inside them. He says Trinity’s changes lowered manufacturing costs and made the ET-Plus more difficult to reuse after accidents, requiring highway departments to purchase new ones.

Trinity vigorously disputes Harman’s claims. In an e-mail, Trinity reports that the company has a œhigh degree of confidence in its product. An executive in a 2012 deposition for a patent infringement lawsuit over the ET-Plus said that Trinity had made changes to its end terminal but that they were œcosmetic and didn’t require new approvals because they didn’t hurt its performance. Todd said Trinity didn’t sell the revised end terminals until they had been crash-tested in 2005 and the Federal Highway Administration had œissued its letter of acceptance.”

There are two ET-Plus guardrails along I-10 in Jacksonville within one mile of each other. The Department of Transportation couldn’t provide News4Jax with an exact count of how many are on local roads.    Harmon said the guardrail ends are too small, and when hit, the head locks up. The guardrails stop flowing away from the car and instead form a spear, sometimes piercing the vehicle at impact.
Drivers want the state to investigate these claims thoroughly.

A federal judge is expected to take up the case in court next week. FDOT is not commenting.

Hmmm, I will be monitoring this matter. I don’t think this is the last we’ve heard from Mr. Harman or from Trinity.

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