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Guardrails need safety improvements

In Connecticut and the United States, car accidents are often attributed to another reckless or negligent driver. Defective infrastructure or safety devices can also contribute to these injuries.

A joint task force from the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently evaluated car crash data indicating that extruding w-beam guardrail end terminals made by several manufacturers suffered performance limitations in different types of crash and installation situations. These devices are comprised of the shield-type device at the front end of a guardrail strip.

From 2009 until 2013, an average of 63 traffic fatalities in the United States involved crashes with all types of guardrail terminals. Collison with a guard rail end comprised 0.2 percent of highway fatalities in this country in 2013.

The Task Force studied 1,231 collisions involving guardrails from numerous sources with emphasis on data concerning the ET-Plus 4-inch terminal. Its study focused on accidents involving severe injuries, fatalities, occupant compartment penetration or deformation, rollovers or unusual or extreme collisions. Because these terminals are tested in laboratory settings, crash data was also evaluated to conclude how the devices performed in actual conditions.

The Task Force found that the extruding w-beam guardrail terminals which met National Cooperative Highway Research Committee Report 350 test standards displayed performance limitations under certain types of collisions and installation conditions. These collisions included side impacts, head-on impacts that took place near the corner of the vehicle and head-on shallow and high-energy impacts. Failure to conform to guidelines governing installation, maintenance or repair and grading guardrail placement also lowered guardrail performance.

The Task Force recommended using the new generation of guardrail terminals, implementing a timeline for all new installations that meet specified test criteria, performing evaluations of guardrail terminals that were installed, expanding guardrail crash documentation and researching side and corner impacts with the terminals. Furthermore, no further testing should be performed of existing w-beam guardrail terminals under NCHRP 350 and the proper placement and installation of roadside safety hardware should be promoted in addition to correct maintenance.

Determining the respective liability of a negligent driver and infrastructure often requires legal assistance. Legal representation can help assure that a car victim can obtain evidence for seeking compensation in a lawsuit

Source: Federal Highway Administration, "FHWA and AASHTO release findings on guardrail terminal crash analysis," accesssed Sept. 22, 2015

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