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New study says predecessor guardrail design actually safer

Guardrails are installed with the intention of making roads and highways safer for motorists. Yet, sometime guardrails that are poorly designed can be extremely hazardous, particularly when a motorist strikes a guardrail end terminal.

In a new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Engineering, researchers compared five unique guardrail end terminal designs using eight years of data concerning serious car accidents.

For three of the designs – the Flared Energy Absorbing Terminal and the Sequential Kinking Terminal (both of which are designed to force the guardrail through the head and then kink it in order to dissipate energy), and the Slotted Rail Terminal (designed using strategically-placed slots to reduce a guardrail’s stiffness) – there was insufficient data to draw any definite conclusions. Researchers noted that further study is needed to gauge the efficacy of these designs. However, one of the remaining two designs in the study proved to be far more effective than the other.

The ET-2000, manufactured by Trinity Industries Inc., was the first crashworthy energy-absorbing guardrail end terminal. The newer conception of the ET-2000 is the ET-Plus. Also manufactured by Trinity, the ET-Plus is designed to exude the guardrail, in the event of an impact, into a flat metal ribbon.

As a newer design, presumably the ET-Plus would be safer than the model it replaced, the ET-2000. But the results of the recent study say otherwise. According to the researchers, crashes involving the ET-Plus design were 1.36 times more likely to result in a severe injury and a whopping 2.86 times more likely to result in a fatality when compared to crashes involving the ET-2000 design.

If you were injured in a crash in which you impacted a guardrail, or if you lost a family member in such a crash, poor design may have been a factor. If it was, you could be entitled to compensation. Talk to a lawyer to find out more about potential liability in guardrail end terminal crashes.

Source: The Safety Institute, “The Safety Institute Releases Study Questioning Safety of Guardrail End Terminals,” Jamie Schaefer-Wilson, Sept. 18, 2014