Type of guardrail being blamed for injuries and death is in use in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Over the past decade, a certain type of guard rail is being blamed for potentially 1,000 injuries and 50 deaths on U.S. highways.

The part of the guardrail in question is the portion located where the rail comes to an end, typically painted in black and yellow stripes, called End Treatments or ET-Plus and made by manufacturer Trinity Highway Products.

These types of guardrails are located in 49 states, and there are more than 300 of them along Utah’s highways.

“We don’t have any crash data that suggests these are a safety concern,” said UDOT Spokesperson John Gleason.

According to Joshua Harman, a guardrail engineer, the distance between the ET-Plus and the base of the guardrail is supposed to be five inches, because that was what the Federal Highway Administration approved back in 2000.

However, somewhere between 2002 and 2005, that distance was altered to four inches. Harman said instead of absorbing the crash, the ET-Plus is instead causing the metal guardrail to impale the vehicle almost like a spear.

The Federal Highway Administration is now requesting these guardrails be crash tested again.

“That’s what they are seeking to determine right now, if this modification changed the product in any way that would make it less safe,” Gleason said.

Harman sued the company, and in November a federal jury found that Trinity Highway Products defrauded the government by failing to disclose important design changes.

“As soon as we learned of that decision, we here in Utah put a halt to installing any of the new end treatments of this new modification,” Gleason said.

Trinity Highway Products' local offices in Centerville declined to speak with FOX 13 News, but they had this statement on their website.

“The safety of the driving public is important to Trinity, and we take seriously the performance of the products we manufacture for consideration by individual highway authorities for installation on the nation’s highways.”

5 comments

  • Pat

    That makes sense… Blame the guard rail for the injuries and death, not the drivers. Same as blaming a gun for killing people or a fork for making someone fat. It’s the operator, not the object.

    • Kevin

      Pat, your comment is incredibly naive. Killing someone with a gun or getting fat with a fork are conscientious decisions by the user. Falling asleep at the wheel or swerving to avoid hitting an animal or another car, for example, are not conscientious decisions to hit a guardrail terminal. What if you had a teenage daughter who was driving home late at night, fell asleep, and drifted off the roadway into a terminal, resulted in her death? Would you still feel it was user error? What if that terminal actually performed properly and she survived? Wouldn’t that be better than hitting a guardrail that malfunctions and pierces her car? Educate yourself.

      • ANOTHERBOB

        You can’t child proof the world Kevin. UDOT has not crash data indicating these end treatments are dangerous. Drivers texting on cell phones are 10,000 times more dangerous than end treatments on guard rails.

      • Kevin

        Anotherbob, “you can’t child proof the world”?!? Are you stupid? I’m not talking about putting round cushions on coffee tables. I’m talking about a legitimate mass killer. As a society, we get upset with an individual who murders just one person. Why is it so absurd for us to get upset with a company who’s incompetence and negligence are killing dozens of people every year? UDOT says they don’t have crash data indicating a problem…almost every state says that. They don’t know how to look for it or what to do with it if they find it. Distracted driving kills about 3,300 people every year. The ET-Plus kills about 50 people per year….not a factor of 10,000. What is paramount to this discussion is that the predecessors of the ET-Plus performed better. There is no reason to change a design unless it performs better or costs less (or both). Clearly, the ET-Plus does not perform better, so the only conceivable reason was to save $50,000. By contrast, the federal government estimates the value of a single human life at over $9,000,000. I don’t think the math works out to justify the secret design change.

  • ANOTHERBOB

    5 deaths a year over over a period of 10 years that MAY possibly be caused by a rail 4″ high instead of 5″? Typical mentality of our best minds in government.

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