Despite passing most Virginia crash tests, VDOT plans to take action on guardrail safety

Posted at 12:00 AM, Dec 17, 2015

The Virginia Department of Transportation is taking action to improve guardrail safety statewide, following an extensive review of guardrail end terminals.

The review began back in October 2014 when a lawsuit regarding a type of guardrail, ET-Plus, sparked national attention.

The lawsuit said that the company that made the guardrails, Trinity Industries, did not disclose to transportation officials that they made changes to the guardrails' end terminals. Many claim that the changes made the rails more dangerous, turning the guardrail into a deadly spear on impact.

On Wednesday, VDOT released the details of their review, including six crash tests on the ET-Plus end terminals.

Of the six tests, one crash test confirmed VDOT's concerns that there are vulnerabilities when the modified ET-Plus is struck at a shallow angle.

VDOT also found that five vehicles were penetrated by a modified ET-Plus end terminal, according to crash data from October 2014 to date.

Because of the findings of the review, VDOT announced a plan of action.

Chief Engineer, Garrett Moore says they will continue to replace damaged modified ET-Plus with VDOT approved products. Additionally, they will begin to replace existing end terminals on the roadways where crashes could be more severe, such as high-speed roadways like the interstates.

Moore says the replacements will be products that have been tested for safety under a new set of standards, which are geared to the cars that people are driving today.

VDOT says they plan to make the replacements no later than the fall of 2016, which will include raising the height of the guardrails to meet the needs of newer vehicles. However, they will only temporarily use these products and only permanently implement them once they have enough data that shows the products are working as they should be.