October 29, 2014 — Tens of thousands of potentially defective highway guardrail end-terminals will be removed in Virginia, according to reports from local news station WSET and the New York Times.
Trinity Industries failed to meet a deadline to supply documentation for new crash-testing of the ET-Plus guardrail. At least 17 states, including Texas, have banned further installation of the ET-Plus. Virginia is the first state to begin removing the guardrails.
A spokeswoman for Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said, “We can’t have an unapproved product on our roadways. We’re working as we speak on a plan for removal.”
VDOT confirmed that unapproved guardrails are installed all across Virginia. The department has not set a timeline for removing the guardrails and may reverse their actions if crash-testing clears the ET-Plus.
However, things aren’t looking good — at least one study has found that drivers are three-times more likely to die if they hit an ET-Plus than its predecessor, the ET-2000, or other guardrails. Transportation officials in California have also begun visual inspections on thousands of miles of roadway to determine where the ET-Plus is installed, according to the OC Register.
The problem is that VDOT did not keep track of where the unapproved Trinity guardrail systems were installed. States normally pay contractors to install guardrail heads, which are inspected at completion and periodically afterward.
Fortunately, it’s easy enough to tell which ET-Plus end-terminals are affected. The re-designed and potentially dangerous ET-Plus has a 4-inch feeder channel behind the head of the guardrail instead of a 5-inch channel. Safety advocates say the smaller channel is more likely to lock up, causing the guardrail to buckle and impale vehicles in head-on collisions.
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