As the controversy over the level of fraud committed by a company that supplied a key guardrail component to many states rages, several states are moving to ban the sale of those units, because of fears that the guardrails could injure car occupants.
The ET-Plus rail head at the center of the controversy is manufactured by Trinity Industries. The Federal Administration recently demanded that the unit be retested and inspected for safety, prompting Mississippi and Oregon to declare that they would ban the installation of the guardrail unit.
The problem with these units seems to be the fact that the company made changes to the design, without informing federal agencies. The company continued to neglect requests to provide information about the safety of these units. The units could possibly increase the risk of the guardrails piercing a vehicle, during an accident. Five fatalities are linked to accidents involving these guardrails, and several injuries have been reported. Trinity Industries faces several personal injury lawsuits related to these deaths and injuries.
Several states have already banned the guardrail units, but California has not yet followed suit. The defects in the guardrails were brought to light after a whistleblower lawsuit that resulted in a massive verdict against the company. In that lawsuit, a Texas jury found that the company had defrauded the Federal Highway Administration for seven years, by concealing changes that were made to the ET-Plus unit. The Federal Highway Administration is demanding that the company allow federal inspectors at new crash tests of the guardrail unit.
Almost every state currently has these guardrails in place. Several states have already launched assessments of the device, and will wait for the results of these before making a decision. Other states are waiting for more information from the Federal Highway Administration before they make a decision.