Faulty Guardrail Design Responsible for Deaths on Virginia Roads

The State of Virginia recently threatened the maker of its transportation system’s guardrails that it would ban and remove the existing product due to concerns over safety if additional testing did not occur.

The notification came after the contractor, Trinity Industries, a Dallas-based company, redesigned the guardrails without informing the state and then failed to properly test the new design. Experts believe the Trinity guardrail is designed in such as way that it can act as a spear if hit head-on by a vehicle. Traditional guardrails design causes the product to collapse like an accordion when struck, but the Trinity guardrail has a narrowed channel that causes a jamming motion upon impact. Trinity documents show the change would save the company $2 on every rail head.

Virginia Demands Additional Testing and Oversight

Virginia notified Trinity Industries by letter in early October telling the company that if it did not conduct new tests the state will ban the existing product. Furthermore, Virginia officials would need to be present for the testing and proof of the testing and results would need to be provided to Virginia’s Transportation Department by October 24, 2014.

If Trinity fails to meet the requirements, the state will begin efforts to remove the existing product from Virginia roads. The state has approximately 11,000 guardrails that have been installed since 2006, a portion of which are the Trinity product.

According to an article in the October 14, 2014 edition of the New York Times, Trinity plans to comply fully with Virginia’s requests.

Trinity Guardrails Face Ongoing Vehicle Crash Concerns

Virginia is not the first state to take issue with the Trinity product. Nevada recently banned the product and a whistle-blower lawsuit was recently filed in Texas. Safety concerns have also arisen in Missouri and Massachusetts. The guardrails are blamed in five deaths and 24 accidents throughout the country.

In addition to the lawsuits, Trinity was also the subject of an investigation by ABC’s 20/20 and a report issued following a study by the University of Alabama that found the ET-Plus rail was nearly three times as likely to cause fatalities when involved in car crashes.

Virginia and other state’s safety concerns are in contrast to findings from the Federal Highway Administration, which claimed to have examined the crash test results from Trinity in 2012. Some federal highway officials had expressed doubt about the product, but ultimately there was no data showing there was cause for concern about the product’s safety.

States use federal data as guidance when choosing a contractor because it determines whether they will receive federal reimbursement for their purchase. Despite federal approval, Virginia is rethinking its relationship with Trinity in light of recent events.

If you or someone you care about has been injured in a car crash and the guardrail played a role in injuries, we can help. Contact the legal team at Williams Ford to schedule a free consultation.


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