Springfield, MO- We drive by guardrails every day but hardly give them a second thought. We’ve always been told guardrails are meant to keep us from suffering major injuries if we lose control of our cars or have the misfortune of being in an accident. But a recent study indicates some guardrails lining our highways and streets are causing injuries and deaths not preventing them.
In late September, the Missouri Department of Transportation announced they would no longer use guardrails manufactured by Dallas-based Trinity Industries after a study showed they were more likely to lead to injuries or death, ABC News reported.
“Our internal observations, as well as our review of available information, indicates to us the ET-Plus guardrail end treatment is not performing as intended and could pose the risk of malfunctioning,” the Missouri Department of Transportation said in a press release.
Adding, “We are immediately stopping the further use of this product on Missouri’s highway system by taking it off our approved products list, removing from projects currently under construction and prohibiting its use on any future products.”
The Missouri DOT along with The Safety Institute, an advocacy group, commissioned the University Of Alabama School Of Engineering to evaluate the efficacy of Trinity guardrails, more specifically the terminal endings.
For the study, researchers examined eight years of crash data involving accidents the led to serious injuries and death in Ohio and Missouri. Those accidents involved five different guardrail designs, including ET-Plus manufactured by Trinity Industries, which researchers found were 1.36 times more likely “produce a severe injury” and 2.86 times more likely to result in fatality than a previous Trinity design.
Ideally, guardrails are supposed to absorb the impact of an accident. When a motorist hits one from the side, the guardrail is supposed prevent them from running off the road and slow their vehicles down. When a guardrail is hit head-on at the endings, the metal side-rails are supposed curl and peel away from the posts so that the end rolls away from the vehicle. Instead, ET-plus rails are piercing the bodies of vehicles, severing victims’ limbs or impaling them, causing them to be maimed or killed.
That’s what happened to a Missouri man who was killed in an accident in January 2014. Bradley Abeln, 31, and a friend were traveling outside Kansas City when they were sideswiped by another motorist and was pushed into a guardrail, Abeln and his passenger were both ejected from their vehicles; they weren’t wearing seat belts. An attorney representing Abeln’s family said he died from injuries sustained when the guardrail pierced his door.
Ablen’s accident was not an isolated incident. North Carolina resident, Jay Traylor lost both his legs after he fell asleep at the wheel and hit a guardrail head-on in January of this year. The rails sheared through his floorboard and into this seat cutting off both his legs. He nearly died from the blood loss but he was fortunate enough to survive.
Traylor and Ablen’s family have filed lawsuits against and they are just two of a growing list of accident victims that say the manufacturing company is unnecessarily put people’s safety and lives at risk.
According to an ABC News story appearing on “20/20,” Trinity Industries change the design specifications of the terminal ends, reducing the width of a metal part from 5 inches to 4 inches. An amount which whistleblower Josh Harman says is a big enough difference to negatively affect the outcome of an accident. But by changing at manufacturing specifications for the terminal ends on their guardrails, Trinity Industries is saving about $50,000 a year.
Trinity Industries denies the allegations and said the Safety Institute study was flawed and biased, according to ABC News.
Individuals who are harmed by another person negligent or carelessness need someone on their side willing to fight for justice. The Missouri accident attorneys at the Stevens Law Firm have nearly 40 years of experience helping personal injury victims get the compensation they deserve for their pain and suffering.