The Federal Highway Administration is seeking crash data and information regarding a controversial guardrail system while guardrail testing continues in Texas.
The FHWA opened a Web portal on Christmas Eve for anyone who has specific information on crashes involving the Trinity Industries ET-Plus guardrail. The portal, located at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FHWA-2014-0039, includes a copy of the notice that specifies what information the agency wants and a folder for crash victims or third-party groups to post comments and upload files. Any information posted to the site is available to the public. Comments and uploads must be completed by Feb. 9, 2015, but will remain on the site for public view thereafter.
The notice came less than two weeks after Trinity began its guardrail testing in San Antonio. The Trinity ET-Plus has been blamed for causing serious injuries and deaths because of an alleged malfunction. More than 40 states have stopped installing the guardrails during the guardrail testing.
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Allegedly Dangerous System
A decision was made to conduct guardrail testing after a federal jury in 2014 found Trinity liable for defrauding the U.S. government. The Texas-based company changed the design of its guardrail head after it had been approved for federal-aid highway funding. Trinity never reported the design change, which it was required to do in order to continue to receive the funding.
Guardrail systems are designed to collapse when hit from the front. They are supposed to absorb the impact and push the guardrail away from the vehicle’s path. When Trinity made the design change, it narrowed the channel behind the head – the section normally marked with yellow and black stripes – which allegedly has caused the rail to enter the vehicle as a spear.
The testing is intended to replicate standard, new-to-market tests that were done almost a decade ago when the ET-Plus system was released. However, after the first round of tests, critics have said that other testing should be done to replicate the crashes where injuries and fatalities are actually occurring.