May 22, 2015 — With at least eight lawsuits now pending against Trinity Industries, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) has set new rules for approving highway guardrails.
The New York Times reports that the new rules “close a loophole” that allowed guardrail-makers to revise older models without conducting new safety tests.
Under the new rules, if a manufacturer modifies a guardrail, it must be crash-tested in accordance with the strictest safety measures. Guardrail-makers and crash-testing facilities must also disclose any financial conflicts of interest.
Trinity Industries is accused of quietly modifying the design of the ET-Plus guardrail end-terminal sometime in 2005, shaving inches off a key piece of metal. Critics say those changes made the guardrail more likely to lock up, buckle, and impale oncoming vehicles instead of deflecting the guardrail harmlessly away.
After Trinity was found guilty of defrauding the government by failing to disclose design changes, they were ordered to conduct eight crash-tests. Those tests were conducted by a former business partner of Trinity.
Although the guardrails “passed” all eight tests, there were serious concerns about the eighth test, which resulted in significant damage to the car door.
Meanwhile, WJHL News reports that a lawsuit has been filed by a man who says his mother died in a car accident after hitting the end of a Trinity ET-Plus guardrail.
The accident occurred in December 2008 on a highway in Tennessee. When Sebrena Carrier’s SUV hit the ET-Plus end-terminal, the “guardrail did in fact penetrate the passenger compartment, striking Ms. Carrier’s torso and causing her to suffer serious and fatal injuries,” according to the lawsuit.
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