How much time have you spent thinking about highway guardrails? Have you ever inspected one? Maybe you should.
A video from an Arizona television station tells a frightening story about many of the guardrails currently in use in the United States. Here are a few excerpts from the report:
Guardrails and their terminal heads are designed to save lives.
But according to some lawsuits, they have become more dangerous since the guardrail head model changed in 2005.
These guardrails are all across the world, including 60 countries and all 50 states.
This is how they are supposed to work:
In the older model, the feeder chute was five inches wide and more than 15 inches high. The exit chute is one-and-a-half inches.
Upon impact, the railing should thread through the terminal head and pigtail out the side away from the car.
We checked guardrails across the Valley and found the majority are smaller, newer heads.
It’s easy to check because the smaller ones are only four inches wide, not five.
Harman said with the smaller terminal head, the railing either gets stuck behind the head or acts like a projectile shooting through the car and its passengers inside.
“These changes are resulting in fatalities, injuries,” said Harman, “a guardrail is not supposed to cut a person in half.”
Here’s a follow-up to the story.
Review to investigate safety of guardrail terminals.
The WPTV-TV West Palm Beach (FL) West Palm Beach, FL website reports that a committee at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials “approved an in-service review of guardrail terminals” in March, in the hopes of “determine whether or not guardrail end terminals currently on our roadways…are actually performing the way they are designed to perform in real-world accidents.” The study is expected to take about three years and cost $650,000. Tony Dorsey, AASHTO’s Manager of Media Relations said the review “was approved with the intention to look at all types and brands of end terminals on our roadways.” The National Cooperative Highway Research Program will conduct the review, with funding provided through AASHTO by state department of transportation agencies. The NCHRP “is operated in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration,” according to the article.
In a second, longer article, the WPTV-TV West Palm Beach (FL) West Palm Beach, FL website reports on safety issues that have been raised with guardrail terminals, citing lawsuits raised alleging they contributed to the death of motorists.