KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Some experts say the guardrails that are supposed to save your life in a crash may actually kill you. More than 10,000 of these possibly fatal devices on our highways, but WATE 6 On Your Side wanted to let you know how many we have installed here on our local roads.
Previous story: Whistleblower says guardrails in Tennessee could be fatal
The problem is a certain type of steel head on the ends of guardrails that some people say allows the guardrail to impale cars instead of absorbing the energy of the crash. It’s called the ET-Plus and is made by a company called Trinity in Texas.
“The results are fatalities, injuries. No test is going to fix that. As long as these products are allowed to stay on the road they’re going to be more . It could be your family it could be mine, it’s anybody. It’s not what type of car or what type of tire, it’s if you drive a car, “ said Joshua Harmon, the whistleblower and guardrail engineer who discovered a possibly fatal design change that wasn’t disclosed to the Federal Highway Administration.
He says the solution is to remove the end terminals.
Knox County Public Works estimates there are about 100 of these terminals in our area. So far, there are no plans to remove them.
“At this point in time, the ones that we’ve seen, they haven’t been a trouble for us. You know, I know maybe there’s been other locations that have had issues, but locally we haven’t seen that,” said Jim Snowden,
The Federal Highway Administration is requiring Trinity to perform eight crash tests with the ET-Plus. Those tests started Wednesday and will take a couple of months to complete, but the end terminals aren’t having to meet the latest 2011 Federal Guidelines, just the 2005 standards from when the product went into distribution.
Even if the crash tests are successful, the product may still not be safe by current federal standards.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation pulled the terminal from the approved products list, but so far doesn’t have any plans to remove the more than ten thousand installed in Tennessee.
“At this point in time, as well as TDOT, we’ve consulted with them, you know we feel like we want to wait and see what the tests come back and then apply whatever recommendation the Federal Highway Administration has,” said Snowden.
Knox County is currently doing an inventory of exactly how many of these are on our roads and where they are. If it turns out they all have to be replaced, it could cost up to $350,000.
Knoxville is also working on an inventory of ET-Plus devices.