Highway Guardrails Endanger Drivers
Written by James P. Nevin
Instead of protecting people, new highway guardrails are slicing through cars, injuring and killing vehicle drivers and passengers.
According to recent lawsuits, guardrails have become more dangerous since guardrail head models were changed in 2005. ABC15 interviewed multiple people about their experiences with the new guardrail design.
In 2010, a guardrail in Florida punctured the floorboard of a truck and sliced through the leg of the 18-year-old passenger. Two years earlier in Tennessee, a woman died when a guardrail cut straight through the front of her SUV. Luke Robinson and his family's vehicle crashed into a guardrail two years ago when they moved to New York. Photos from the scene of the accident showed that the guardrail had punctured through the wheel well and pushed through the back seat. Robinson's two-year-old son Ethan was pinned by the guardrail while still in his car seat.
Josh Harman, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the American public against Trinity Industries, the manufacturer of most of the guardrails on the road. Harman is Trinity's competition, but during their patent dispute he noticed the new terminal heads were no longer working as they should. The new models, although very similar, were smaller. Harman states that the design was changed for the purpose of selling more heads.
An attorney in Florida, Ted Leopold, is representing several people in a different lawsuit against Trinity. Leopold claims in the lawsuit that Trinity changed the design of its guardrail heads and the newer models are not working like they should.
The newer guardrails are all across the world, including 60 countries and all 50 states. The older guardrails, upon impact, the railing threaded through the terminal head and pigtailed out the side away from the car. According to Harman, the smaller terminal heads (4 inches wide instead of 5 inches), the railing either gets stuck behind the head or acts like a projectile shooting through the car and its passengers inside.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) stated in a deposition from Harman's patent lawsuit that they did not know about the changes to the guardrail until long after they were already lining roadways across the country. Harman says this violates federal rules requiring guardrail makers to report changes to the FHWA.
Harman's lawsuit against Trinity is going forward led by a prestigious national law firm. The Department of Justice has not joined the suit, but is monitoring it.