Guardrails made by a Texas company called Trinity Industries are under investigation by the New York Times for allegedly turning guardrails into spears that shear through car sidewalls during collisions with the rails. The rails are allegedly to blame for as many as five deaths and scores of injuries nationwide.
The guardrails in question are approved for use by the Federal Highway Administration and have been installed in virtually every state in the country – including Connecticut.
Are the rails a danger to drivers in the event of a car accident?
The Federal Highway Administration continues to contend that the product is safe to use as does the manufacturer.
But not everyone is buying in… Including the highway engineer charged with inspecting the rails for the Federal Highway Administration. He expressed concerns about their safety two years ago before signing off on their use.
“There does seem to be a valid question over the field performance,” the senior engineer, Nicholas Artimovich, wrote in an email to his colleagues in February 2012, after an agency engineer based in South Carolina raised questions about the guardrails. In a separate email to an outside safety expert a month later, Mr. Artimovich wrote that it was “hard to ignore the fatal results.”
Three states – Massachusetts, Missouri and Nevada, have banned further installation outright and a series of lawsuits are pending.
This latest problem raises further questions about Federal agencies overseeing highway safety. Congressional committees are already looking at the failure of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to act on the dangers posed by GM ignition systems that led to a large number of fatal crashes.
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 Highway Guardrail May Be Deadly, States Say; New York Times, October 12, 20