Saturday, February 24, 2018

Guardrails Blamed for Fatalities In Use on Maryland Roads

The Maryland SHA has stated that it will no longer install a model of guardrail blamed for causing traffic fatalities in several states, but has yet to remove them from existing roadways.

Ten states have ordered the Lindsay X-Lite guardrail pulled from roads and replaced with models which meet the newest crash safety standards set by the Federal Highway Administration.   The Maryland SHA has stated that it will not install more X-LITES on roads, but approximately 980 units remain on Maryland roads.

Retired SHA traffic engineer Gene Simmers believes Maryland should replace the existing guardrails with ones that meet the latest federal safety standards  “You know there’s a problem. You know that there are other states that have removed them for safety reasons,” stated Mr Simmers.

According to an article in USA Today, the X-LITE was located at the site of six crashes involving fatalities in Tennessee, Missouri, and Virginia.  In five of those crashes the guardrails effectively impaled the vehicle.  In two fatal crashes in Tennessee —  the guardrails "did not perform as they were intended to," stated B.J. Doughty, the department's communications director. 

The devices are the subject of several lawsuits involving traffic fatalities in other states.   The guardrails had been tested by a lab owned by the manufacturer, which some claimed was a conflict of interest.  In April of last year, the Tennessee Department of Transportation send a letter to the Federal Highway Administration, calling on the agency to revoke their approval for the use of the devices, stating "I believe it appropriate to notify Federal Highway Administration of our inability to receive satisfactory installation information from the manufacturer and that in-service performance of this device is resulting in unacceptable safety levels for the department" and noting that the FHWA has the authority to revoke the acceptance of devices to be eligible for federal funding. 

Maryland pulled the devices from their approved product list last year, but many remain in use.

Most state DOTs did not independently test the devices themselves before using them.  But when Virginia ran their own tests they found that the devices failed, prompting the Virginia to remove it from the state's product list and VDOT is replacing it on roads where the speed limit exceeds 55mph. 
The manufacturer defends the devices and claims they save lives, "For decades, Lindsay Transportation Solutions has made safety our No. 1 priority. ... It is widely recognized that there are impact conditions that exceed the performance expectations of all safety equipment, and equipment’s inability to singly prevent every tragedy does not indicate a flaw or defect." stated the president of the company's infrastructure division.

Sources:
USA Today: Controversial guardrails linked to deaths get replaced
Fox 5: Dad on a Mission, Federal Oversight in Question
Knox News: More lawsuits accuse guardrail manufacturers of negligence
Knox News: Guardrails only tested by lab owned by creators