Two weeks ago I blogged about questions surrounding guardrails installed on highways here in Oregon and throughout the country. As I noted then, Oregon has opted not to join several other states in suspending use of “ET-Plus” guardrails made by a Texas company and used nationwide, despite reports, as the New York Times put it this week, of crashes “in essence, turning the rails into spears when cars hit them and injuring people instead of cushioning the blow.”
“’The device is not performing as it is designed and intended,’ a Missouri transportation official wrote of the problematic railheads in an internal communication,” according to a report this week in the Times.
As I reported last month, all this is especially worrisome when we consider Oregon car crashes, not just because the ODOT has opted not to act but because it says it is not really able to act, since it has no reliable records on where the guardrails in question are actually installed. The design change that led to the charges concerning the ET-Plus rails took place in 2005. As a result, the design is now widely in use throughout Oregon and the rest of the United States.
According to the Times, Missouri banned the use of the rails last month, joining Nevada and Massachusetts. The newspaper also reports that several years ago officials at the Federal Highway Administration “drafted a letter asking the manufacturer to conduct additional testing, but the letter was never sent.” It notes that the official who raised concerns about the rails dropped his objections to them after meeting with representatives of the manufacturer. “The federal agency continues to allow states to use federal funds to purchase and install the rail heads. Concern over the guardrails are at the center of a federal lawsuit expected to go to trail” shortly in Texas, the paper notes.
As a Portland auto accident lawyer with a special focus on wrongful death cases I will be watching both the Texas trial and any continued developments in this case closely. Like the situation we have seen unfold with General Motors over the last year it raises serious questions about federal and state regulators and how close they are to the companies they are supposed to oversee.
New York Times: Highway Guardrail May be Deadly, States Say