WRAL Investigates

Controversial guardrails continue to pass safety tests

Posted March 13, 2015
Updated September 11, 2015

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— A guardrail banned in 40 states due to safety concerns has passed its most recent series of safety tests conducted for the Federal Highway Administration.

The maker of the ET-Plus Guardrail, Texas-based Trinity Industries Inc., is the subject of a lawsuit filed by a man who spent his career installing guardrails.

Josh Harman accuses the company of making changes to its guardrail heads, also known as endcaps, and not telling the federal government about the changes.

A series of horrific crashes in which the guardrail failed to peel away and instead pierced cars and drivers, put the ET-Plus in the spotlight.

Since that time, the guardrail has passed a total of eight safety tests, including those on the ET-Plus 31-inch model, the most common standard.

There was some controversy over the final test, because the test vehicle spun and suffered damage on the driver’s side door. However, testing standards allow that type of damage, as long as the driver’s compartment is not penetrated by the guardrail. Trinity addressed this controversy in a letter to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Harman was unsatisfied. In a statement, he said, "It is not surprising that the FHWA would manipulate these tests to cover up their failure. An honest and fair testing methodology would inevitably reveal the depths of FHWA’s bureaucratic incompetence.”

Steven Lawrence, the attorney representing Jay Traylor, a North Carolina man who lost his legs following a crashing involving the ET-Plus, told WRAL, "The Federal Highway Administration cannot wave a magic wand that makes the four-inch ET-Plus a safe product. Trinity fraud will continue causing serious injuries and deaths across the country as long as this product is on the road."

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  • Mark Farmer Mar 13, 2015
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    I seen some of the pictures of this guardrail failing, and it is horrific.