There are about 11,000 ET-Plus systems on Virginia roadways. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) expects to begin replacing guardrails next year, prioritizing places where crashes could be more severe. The new guardrails must meet updated safety standards.
Installation of new ET-Plus guardrails in Virginia has been suspended since last year, when state Attorney General Mark Herring sued Trinity for failing to disclose design changes.
Virginia spent about $250,000 to conduct independent tests of the ET-Plus system at a facility in California. It passed four tests, but two “shallow-angle” crash tests raised serious concerns, according to the Associated Press.
There was no official confirmation about whether the ET-Plus passed or failed the shallow-angle tests. In one test, a truck overturned after hitting the guardrail. The VDOT’s chief engineer, Garrett Moore, said the system performed in a way that “could have serious consequences” for vehicle occupants.
The ET-Plus is a safety feature on the end of a guardrail. It is supposed to absorb the impact of an oncoming car, feed the guardrail through a U-shaped chute, and deflect the guardrail harmlessly away.
In 2005, Trinity quietly changed the design of the ET-Plus, shaving several inches off the chute. Critics say the changes saved Trinity money on materials, but also made the guardrail more likely to jam up and impale oncoming cars instead of deflecting away. The company is now facing more than a dozen lawsuits from people who were injured.
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