Most people give little thought to the guardrails that line countless highways throughout Florida and across the U.S. The purpose of these devices is to deflect vehicle occupants from careening into opposite lanes of traffic, off dangerous hillsides or from overturning. They aren’t 100 percent effective and they won’t usually prevent crashes, but they are intended to minimize the overall impact.
Unfortunately, several companies that make the rails have reportedly undertaken a cost-saving design measure that appears to have endangered public safety. Several different lawsuits against at least two major manufacturers of the devices allege designs were altered so that the edges are no longer cushioned or flat. This has reportedly resulted in the steel rails becoming “spear-like,” impaling vehicles rather than softening the blow, causing severe injuries and even deaths.
One of the largest manufacturers, Trinity Industries Inc., just lost a $175 million federal lawsuit alleging it changed the designs without the required approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Several more injury and wrongful death lawsuits against the company are pending, and 30 states have prohibited new installation of guardrails made by this company.