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Florida is among 44 U.S. states no longer using a type of guardrail that has been implicated in a number of highway deaths and injuries in traffic accidents caused by their use in road design, a recent report states.
However, one state lawmaker suggested the state had not taken swift enough action to address this potentially serious public safety issue.
Indications that the ET-Plus Guardrail System made by Trinity Industries, Inc., may be responsible for five deaths and many more injuries in at least 14 accidents nationwide are starting to receive widespread publicity.
Reports in the New York Times and Dallas Morning News in October explained how Trinity changed the design of its guardrail head to make it narrower and how this change has allegedly led to the guardrail being able to slice into cars upon impact, potentially injuring drivers and passengers. Guardrails are supposed to crumple upon impact and fall away from a vehicle.
A federal court jury in Dallas found that Trinity’s failure to advise the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) of the new guardrail design amounted to fraud. Subsequent to that ruling, Trinity announced that it would quit selling the guardrail system as it sought to test the allegedly defective product.
NBC in Miami followed up just before Thanksgiving with an investigation of the issue and found that the State of Florida does not know how many ET-Plus Guardrail Systems exist in the state. However, officials said they would be conducting a count.
Perhaps State Rep. Irv Slosberg (D-Boca Raton) should be thanked for the taking of this inventory, which Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Dick Kane said would be complete by the end of November.
In October, Slosberg told WFSU radio that Florida should investigate the guardrail and its threat to safety. He was reacting to a previous statement by Kane indicating that the state would take a wait-and-see approach to the issue.
Kane, according to NBC Miami, said that “the department continues to monitor any new information regarding the Trinity ET-Plus product and will take appropriate action when necessary to preserve the safety of the transportation system.”
“I’m just shocked they wouldn’t have any kind of engineering study to find out for themselves, because the buck should stop right here with our Florida Department of Transportation,” Slosberg said, reacting to those comments.
NBC Miami, in its report, states that a “Team 6 investigation” found that Florida was among 44 states that have stopped installing the guardrails until new crash tests being conducted by the manufacturer and the FHA are completed.
Virginia is the only state that is taking the step of actually removing the guardrails from its highways.
If the guardrails do not function properly, as media reports suggest, then removing them would appear to be the safest course of action.
Otherwise, a state could be knowingly leaving a potentially defective and deadly product along the roadways, exposing motorists to the risk of serious and possibly fatal injuries.