Highway Guardrails are Supposed to Provide Protection in Crashes, but are They Safe?

By September 30, 2016Articles

GuardrailGuardrails are meant to protect lives in motor vehicle crashes and trucking accidents in Missouri and other states. But are today’s guardrails actually safe? This is a topic that has come under much scrutiny as of late.

Highway guardrails are supposed to absorb much of the energy in truck and car crashes, allowing the vehicles to slide down the safety rails without bouncing back into traffic. But in many roadway crashes, guardrails may have actually caused deaths and severe injuries that otherwise may not have occurred. Because of this, the Federal Highway Administration recently announced it will underwrite a study to measure the safety of guardrails.

A newly completed study, however, appears to provide one conclusion: some are not.

The Safety Institute, a non-profit organization focused on product safety and injury prevention, and the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission sponsored a study on guardrails. The study, conducted by the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Engineering, reviewed severe and fatal motor vehicle crashes involving guardrails in Missouri and Ohio between 2005 and 2014. One common denominator between all the crashes is that contact with a guardrail was considered the “Most Harmful Event.”

The researchers compared accidents involving five different guardrail designs, measuring the severe injuries and deaths with a previous design, the ET-2000, against four newer types. The newer designs included one called the ET-Plus, which features a flat piece of metal at the end of the guardrail that faces oncoming traffic. Researchers concluded that this redesigned guardrail places drivers and passengers at greater risk for death and catastrophic injuries in a crash than its predecessor. Specifically, research found the ET-Plus guardrail is almost one-and-a-half times more likely to lead to serious injury and nearly three times more likely to lead to death than the ET-2000.

The Texas manufacturer of the ET-Plus guardrail is the defendant in several wrongful death lawsuits. The lawsuits were filed prior to the Missouri safety study. The Safety Institute and the Center for Auto Safety have joined in a whistleblower lawsuit, alleging that the manufacturer defrauded the federal government when it redesigned its highway guardrails in 2005. Allegedly, the redesign saved the company $2 per guardrail in production costs.

According to media reports, Missouri officials have said they are waiting on the final study report to make a decision regarding the state’s ET-Plus guardrails.

If you live in Missouri and have been critically injured or have lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident, you may wish to consult an attorney experienced in conducting car and truck crash investigations. The attorney can determine all those responsible for your loss and pursue fair and just compensation on your behalf.