Marshall M. Herman 804-692-2134
Dec. 16, 2015
VDOT TAKES ACTION TO IMPROVE GUARDRAIL SAFETY ON VIRGINIA’S ROADWAYS
Agency is focused on safety to make good business decisions
RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is making improvements to guardrail safety following an extensive review of crashes involving guardrail end terminals, crash tests and other data.
Guardrails are barriers placed along the edge of roadways and are intended to reduce the risk of serious accidents by preventing vehicles from driving off the road. Guardrail end terminals are an essential piece of equipment attached to guardrails and are designed to guide a guardrail away from a vehicle should the vehicle strike a guardrail end.
“Safety is VDOT’s number one priority,” said VDOT Commissioner Charles Kilpatrick. “We’re taking action to reduce the severity of crashes and save lives. VDOT has taken a hard look at the facts and is delivering a plan of action based purely on safety for all motorists.”
VDOT Chief Engineer Garrett Moore, P.E. added, “After reviewing information from crash tests and, more importantly, the information coming from our field, VDOT will use a risk based replacement plan for guardrail terminals. The agency is implementing updated standards for guardrails and terminals installed on new construction projects.”
In October 2014, VDOT became aware of potential issues with guardrail terminals and began collecting information on terminals installed on state maintained roads. These in-service field reviews provide information on whether or not guardrail end terminals in Virginia are performing as they should when struck by a vehicle.
VDOT’s in-service field reviews identified anomalies with Trinity Industries’ modified ET-Plus that caused concern and led the agency to perform crash tests on the product. As part of the data collection process, VDOT hired Karco Engineering, LLC, an independent automotive and safety testing facility, to conduct six crash tests on modified ET-Plus. The modified ET-Plus was not approved for use on Virginia’s roadways.
VDOT identified four vehicles were penetrated by a modified ET-Plus end terminal after reviewing crash data from October 2014 through July 2015.
- This information caused enough concern for VDOT that the agency hired an independent firm, Karco Engineering, LLC, to conduct six crash tests on the modified ET-Plus.
- Of the six tests, one crash test result confirmed concerns that there are vulnerabilities with the modified ET-Plus when struck at a shallow angle (5-degree).
- Crash tests reports can be found at http://www.virginiadot.org/info/guardrail_safety.asp.
From review of information collected by the agency over the past 14 months, including the crash test results, VDOT will take the following actions:
- Continue to replace any damaged modified ET-Plus with VDOT approved products;
- Begin replacing existing end terminals on roadways where crashes could be more severe, such as high speed roadways, with end terminals that meet updated crash-testing standards, reducing the risk of injury and death; and,
- Use updated standards when installing new guardrails and terminals on construction projects; these standards will raise the height of guardrails from 27.75 inches to 31 inches to meet the needs of newer vehicles
MASH Crash Testing Criteria
VDOT will aggressively move to use Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) 2015 testing criteria. VDOT supports the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) adoption of this standard nationally. This new standard is intended to improve the effectiveness of roadside safety hardware such as guardrail.
VDOT will temporarily accept MASH tested products until there is enough field information available for the agency to determine that such products perform as they should.
VDOT expects to begin replacing terminals with MASH approved terminals no later than the fall of 2016.
VDOT will encourage the Federal Highway Administration, AASHTO, the industry and manufacturers to document, collect and share field performance results of MASH tested products.