SCHUMER: FAULTY GUARDRAIL COMPONENT LIKELY INSTALLED ON ROADS ACROSS UPSTATE NY COULD BE POSING GRAVE DANGER TO MOTORISTS; AT LEAST 5 DEATHS HAVE BEEN LINKED TO DESIGN – SCHUMER CALLS ON FED HIGHWAY ADMIN. TO CONDUCT TOP-TO-BOTTOM REVIEW OF WHERE IN NYS THEY ARE INSTALLED, PROVIDE GUIDANCE ON REPLACING THEM
Guardrails Are Meant To Keep Drivers Safe, But An End Piece Called “ET-Plus” Installed On Approximately 500,000 Guardrails Across The Country Is Putting Lives At Risk – “ET-Plus” End Terminal Can Pierce Car, Injuring Driver & Passenger Instead of Absorbing Collision & Guiding Car To Safety
Manufacturer of End Terminal Changed Product Design in 2005 Without Alerting Feds & Company Was Recently Found Guilty Of Fraud – Last Week, Manufacturer Agreed to Halt Sales For Additional Safety Testing & 13 States Have Voluntarily Chosen To Stop Installing This End Terminal Out Of Concern for Driver Safety
Schumer Says There Are Likely Thousands Of These Guardrails on Upstate NY Roads – Calls For Fed. Highway Admin. To Work With NYS To Identify Where These Devices Are Installed So Replacement Can Happen Quickly
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to conduct a top-to-bottom review of a dangerous guardrail component that may be installed on roads across Upstate New York and identify where these components are located so that they can be more readily replaced. Schumer explained that a guardrail end terminal product manufactured by Trinity Highway Products, called “ET-Plus,” was found to malfunction during motor vehicle accidents, endangering the lives of drivers and passengers.
The “ET-Plus” guardrail end terminal is intended to reduce the impact of a collision and deflect the guardrail from the vehicle. However, Trinity’s re-designed “ET-Plus” guardrail end terminal can jam, turning the guardrail into a dangerous spear that can pierce through the vehicle, killing or injuring those inside. Schumer noted that at least five deaths around the country have been linked to this faulty end terminal. Trinity re-designed this component back in 2005, but failed to notify the FHWA of the changes it made, and the company has since been convicted of fraud.
“Guardrails are there to protect us during a car accident, not to become lethal weapons that put drivers and passengers further in danger. These ‘ET-Plus’ guardrail end terminals cause more harm than good, and the Federal Highway Administration should work with New York State to identify where these dangerous guardrails are located and provide guidance for whether and how to replace them,” said Schumer. “When you’re driving along the Thruway or any other road in Upstate New York, you should not be fearful of the guardrail on your right.”
Last week, FHWA required that Trinity do additional crash testing on the “ET-Plus” guardrail and provide that information to the federal government for review. Schumer said that it is estimated there are nearly 500,000 of these guardrails installed around the country, and he is calling on the FHWA to work with the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to conduct a top-to-bottom review of where these guardrails are installed so that if needed, they can eventually be replaced more quickly, once the results of the additional crash testing are known. Schumer also said the FHWA should provide guidance to New York State on whether and how to effectively replace these guardrails. Schumer noted that there were more than 300,000 motor vehicle accidents reported in New York State in 2013, and that the presence of faulty end terminals on New York’s roads can make these accidents even more dangerous than they already are.
Schumer explained that guardrail end terminals are designed to give way when hit head-on, absorbing energy by deforming and deflecting the guardrail away from the vehicle, and slowing it down in the process. However, in 2005, Trinity Industries, the manufacturer of the ET-Plus guardrail end terminal, made a change to the dimensions of their product without notifying the FHWA. Schumer said that lawsuits alleged that this one-inch change was made to save money, and makes the new ET-Plus prone to malfunction. The smaller end terminal can jam instead of sliding along the guardrail, thereby not deflecting the guardrail and turning it into a dangerous spear that can pierce through the vehicle, killing or injuring those inside. A recent study of crashes in two states conducted by the University of Alabama-Birmingham found that a crash involving the ET-Plus was more likely to end in both serious injuries and fatalities than one involving an older design.
Schumer said that, on October 20, a federal jury in Texas returned a verdict against Trinity, finding that it had indeed committed fraud when it failed to notify federal officials of the changes it had made to its guardrail end terminals. Last week, Trinity announced that it would stop selling its ET-Plus model until further safety testing is completed. While Schumer said he is pleased that the production of a potentially harmful product has been halted, he is still urging the FHWA to conduct this top-down review of some 500,000 guardrails so that the Trinity product does not harm others.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the FHWA appears below:
Dear Acting Administrator Nadeau:
I commend FHWA for the recent decision to require Trinity Highway Products, LLC to perform additional crash testing of the ET-Plus guardrail end terminal. I urge you to work with the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to determine where the ET-Plus guardrail end terminals have been installed throughout the state, so that they may be quickly removed if additional safety concerns are discovered.
As you know, guardrail end terminals are designed to give way when hit head-on, absorbing energy and slowing the vehicle. In 2005, Trinity Industries, the manufacturer of the ET-Plus guardrail end terminal, made a change to the dimensions of their product without notifying the FHWA. Lawsuits allege that this one-inch change was made to save money, and makes the new ET-Plus prone to malfunction. The smaller end terminal can jam instead of sliding along the guardrail, turning the guardrail into a dangerous spear that can pierce through the vehicle, killing or injuring those inside. A recent study of crashes in two states conducted by the University of Alabama-Birmingham found that a crash involving the ET-Plus was more likely to end in both serious injuries and fatalities than one involving an older design.
Last week, a Texas jury found that Trinity had committed fraud against the U.S. government by failing to disclose the modifications to the ET-Plus to the FHWA. I commend the steps that FHWA has taken in requiring additional crash testing of the ET-Plus guardrail end terminal. However, with several tragic deaths and horrific injuries linked to accidents involving these devices, more needs to be done. I urge you to work with NYSDOT to conduct a review of the ET-Plus end terminals located throughout New York State. There are an estimated 500,000 of these guardrail end terminals installed throughout the United States, and likely thousands in New York; we need to identify their whereabouts and keep New York drivers safe.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to working with you to ensure that all guardrail end terminals installed across the country meet strict, effective safety standards.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
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