December 17, 2014 — The New York Times has found that the dimensions on half of the guardrails that are being crash-tested this week in Texas are different from most of the potentially defective guardrails installed on highways.
In October, a jury in Texas found Trinity Industries liable for defrauding the federal government by failing to disclose design changes to the ET-Plus guardrail end-terminal sometime in 2005. The whistleblower, Joshua Harman, says those changes saved Trinity money in materials, but made the guardrails more likely to lock up and impale vehicles in head-on crashes.
Now, Harman says Trinity made another design change that was not reported to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) — making the “exit-gap” wider to avoid jamming the guardrail. According to the Times, Trinity executives testified that the exit gap on the ET-Plus should be between 1-inch and 1.15-inches.
However, out of the eight guardrails being tested in Texas, four have an exit gap of 1.25-inches, making them 25% wider than many of the guardrails on American roads. The guardrails being tested came from the California Department of Transportation and were purchased recently, in June 2014.
Although a 25% difference in the width of the exit gap is physically small, it could make a huge difference in a high-speed collision. It also means that half of the guardrails being tested are not the same as the potentially defective guardrails currently installed on the highway.
Trinity Industries has refused demands from officials in Virginia to test guardrails that are actually on the roads. State officials are also barred from videotaping, photographing, or measuring the guardrails being tested.
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