Lawmakers: Guardrail test doesn’t go far enough

Guardrail Dangers: Real-Life Cases

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Guardrails are meant to protect you in a car crash, but we’ve uncovered allegations that guardrail testing does not go far enough — and could even be costing lives.

These “ET-Plus” guardrails from the company Trinity are used across the country, including in Rhode Island. Now, Target 12 Consumer Investigator Susan Hogan has learned two U.S. senators are taking aim at the eight mandated crash tests guardrail safety is measured by.

In a statement to the Federal Highway Administration from Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the lawmakers said “The federal agency responsible for highway safety is reprehensibly leaving drivers and passengers at risk –failing to test rigorously and reliably guardrails that may kill them.” The lawmakers go on to say in a statement, “The testing done by the Federal Highway Administration has been inadequate to protect the public from defective guardrails that may spear their cars, killing and injuring all inside.”

At speeds of 62 miles per hour, the crash tests from the Federal Highway Administration show a vehicle hitting the head of an “ET-Plus”  guardrail head on. Yet, in one test after another, the Federal Highway Administration said the guardrails worked.

“We have concluded that the tests show that the ET-Plus end terminal at the height of 27 ¾ inches meet the applicable crash test criteria,” the Federal Highway Administration said in a statement.

For months, Target 12 has been reporting on Trinity “ET-Plus” end terminals that are the subject of dozens of pending lawsuits, blaming Trinity’s guardrails for numerous deaths and serious injuries.

In October, a jury found Trinity defrauded the U.S. government about a design change that is alleged to have caused numerous deaths.

The jury’s findings prompted federal officials to mandate a new round of crash tests. However, car safety experts are now raising questions about whether the new crash tests are using current safety standards.

“We’re testing to the old standards, not the standards that were brought into play in 2011,” said Sean Kane. “That is very troubling.”

Kane’s concerns are echoed by Blumenthal and Schumer in their statement to the Federal Highway Administration. “The FHWA must fully disclose all details of its tests and repeat them using acceptably exacting standards and methods,” the senators said in the statement.

The Federal Highway Administration did respond to the statement from the senators, saying the crash tests are not the end of their work to determine the safety of the guardrails.

Although, all eight guardrail crash tests have been completed, four still have not been analyzed.

However, we’ve learned a guardrail expert filed a declaration in federal court stating from his review that the eighth and final crash test was a “clear failure.” In the filing, the expert goes on to say “The damage to the car not only could have caused disabling injuries but showed a propensity to penetrate the vehicle.”

In a statement to Target 12, Trinity, the guardrail manufacturer of the “ET-Plus” vehemently disagreed: “Drawing conclusions without access to the complete crash test data or test report, as Dr. Coon has done here, is premature, scientifically unsound and irresponsible.”

The Federal Highway Administration says it plans on releasing the results of the final four tests in the coming weeks.

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