RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Some state lawmakers have joined the call to remove a controversial type of guardrails off the roads in North Carolina.
The guardrails in question are a certain type of the Trinity ET-Plus guardrails. There are at least 10,000 ET-Plus guardrails in North Carolina, according to the Department of Transportation.
In 2005, the company that manufactures the guardrails reduced the ET-Plus rail end terminals from 5 inches to 4 inches and never told the federal government.
Civil lawsuits claim that change was responsible for many injuries and at least five deaths nationwide. One of those lawsuits involves Jay Traylor, a Graham, N.C., man whose legs were cut off after he hit an ET-Plus guardrail on an Orange County highway.
Traylor’s lawsuit has been settled, but details of the settlement have been sealed.
A company representative defended the rails.
“The ET-Plus system has successfully passed more tests than any other highway guardrail system available today,” wrote Jeff Eller, who represents Trinity Highway Products. “When it is properly installed and maintained, it performs as designed.”
Joshua Harman, a whistleblower in one of the lawsuits against Trinity, has been working to remove the modified ET-Plus guardrails from roads and highways all across the country.
“They will fail tomorrow and there are hundreds of thousands left on the highways and it’s irresponsible not to get them off the highway,” said Harman.
At least 29 other states have banned the ET-Plus guardrail in question. Now the Chairman of the State House Transportation Committee wants North Carolina to become the latest and is asking the NCDOT to remove and replace those guardrails.
“Given the failure of this device in the testing commission by the Virginia Department of Transportation, the number of North Carolina citizens injured in impacts with this product, and the substantial differences between the original product and what is being shipped now, it is the sense of undersigned that the modified version of the product should be immediately removed from the Approved Products List, replacements ordered, and new installs should begin, while removing the items in question,” Representative John Torbett wrote in a letter to the NCDOT.
NCDOT points to crash tests by the Federal Highway Administration showing the redesigned guardrail end terminals meet government safety standards.
“It passed those safety tests, so it has remained federally approved, and in turn, approved for N.C.,” a spokeswoman for the NCDOT told CBS North Carolina.
The Department of Transportation says they have no plans to replace the guardrails but they’re still looking into the representative’s concerns.
“The lack of motivation to do something about it is surprising,” said Harman. “Hopefully with getting lawmakers involved, maybe that motivation will be kicked up a notch.”