La. discontinues use of dangerous guardrails
BATON ROUGE- Louisiana highway chiefs said Friday, the state has discontinued the use of guardrails caught up in an investigation and lawsuit surrounding allegations the design was changed and have caused people to lose limbs or even die in crashes across the country.
"DOTD has discontinued the use of the ET-Plus guardrail end treatment system until further testing is done and approved," a department spokesperson told WBRZ News 2. Earlier, a jury in Texas found the Dallas-based guardrail company withheld information about a design flaw.
Federal officials have questioned whether the design of the end of the guardrail can absorb the impact of a crash as it is designed to do. A study found the redesign, which reduced a piece of metal from five inches to four inches, might actually put people in vehicles that crash into it at a higher risk of injury or death.
ABC News reported instead of absorbing the impact of a crash, the guardrails turned into a spear that pierces through vehicles. The network interviewed people who lost limbs in crashes. ABC also said the redesign saved the company money.
Originally following the ABC News report in September, the state told the WBRZ Investigative Unit it did not keep information about what kind of guardrails are installed along the side of state highways. A spokesperson said then, contractors instal ones that are federally approved.
"At this time, DOTD is reviewing its inventory data," a spokesperson said Friday in response to a WBRZ inquiry about if the state had started to investigate what specific guardrails were installed following the jury's decision in Texas.
Following the $175 million verdict, Trinity Industries Inc., the company that builds the ET-Plus system, announced it would stop selling it and was ending shipments until testing is complete.
Trinity will likely appeal the decision and company officials still had confidence in the guardrail system.
Trinity makes many industrial products including railcars; guardrails are a small part of its business.
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