Trinity Industries, manufacturer of the embattled ET-Plus guardrail end-terminal, was found guilty of defrauding the federal government by failing to disclose design changes. Those changes, say whistleblowers, may have made the guardrail more likely to lock up and impale oncoming vehicles instead of deflecting away.
The test involved a small Geo Metro traveling at 62 mph that crashed head-on into a Trinity ET-Plus.
According to KSAT observer Shari St. Clair, the guardrail did not appear to have speared the Geo Metro. She said, “The guardrail literally crumpled into kind of a zigzag pattern.” The car’s front bumper was damaged and it spun before coming to a stop in the lane it had been traveling in.
The Federal Highway Administration’s administrator for safety, Tony Furst, said the guardrail performed as expected, pushing approximately 15 feet of guardrail through the head.
The next test is scheduled for January 14, weather permitting.
The tests are being completed in San Antonio, Texas, by Southwest Research Institute, a former business partner of Trinity Industries. Southwest has strictly limited media access to the safety tests, only allowing two observers. The observers were not allowed to measure the guardrails before the tests, take photos, or videotape.
Similar limitations have been enforced for state officials. Last month, highway officials from Virginia complained that the guardrails in the safety tests differ from many of those actually on the road. The exit gap on the guardrails has varied by a quarter-inch. All of the guardrails in the tests were recently purchased from California.
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