Dangerous Guardrails in Virginia – Safety Features May Cause Greater Injuries
Lawsuits have been filed against the people who make and install the guardrails beside the highways, raising the prospect of dangerous guardrails in Virginia.
The purpose of the guardrails, of course, is to keep traffic from going through the barrier and perhaps going off a cliff or into other lanes of travel. In that sense, they are safety equipment. However, the lawsuits raise concerns these guardrails may exacerbate injuries by spearing your vehicle and causing serious injuries and deaths.
These dangerous guardrails in Virginia have resulted in lawsuits filed against the manufacturer of Lindsay X-LITE guardrail. Instead of deflecting vehicles, in some cases the X-LITE pierces cars with deadly consequences.
In Virginia, a dangerous guardrail was linked to the death of Sarah Weinberg, of Alexandria. She died December 2016 on Interstate 66 in Fauquier County, according to local media reports. Lawsuits against guardrails have also been filed in Tennessee.
So why are certain guardrails so dangerous in Virginia and elsewhere? Guardrails are meant to be a telescoping system. They are intended to push down, section on section to absorb the impact of a crash. This has not been happening in some cases. Defective guardrails have not yielded but have pierced cars with terrible results.
The solution to this problem is fairly easy and obvious. You need to have something at the beginning of the guardrail that will prevent it from serving as a spear going right into an oncoming car.
This could involve a breakaway mechanism that will allow the car to glance off of and not run directly into the guardrail. Another engineering solution is to have that beginning of the guardrail at an angle so that an oncoming vehicle won’t get directly speared by it. The other thing you see as you’re driving down the highway like Interstate 64 in Richmond, Virginia is that the beginning of the guardrail is painted yellow so as to make it more visible and perhaps more avoidable.
There’s a number of reasons why a car going at highway speed limits of 55 up to 70 miles-an-hour might run into the beginning of the guardrail. First, the beginning of the guardrail is often just feet off of the highway lane.
A driver may go off the highway due to his or her own fault, even if rain, fog or other visibility problems were a factor. However, you could also be caused to run into the beginning of a guardrail by a vehicle behind you running into you and knocking you off of the roadway and out of your lane of travel and into the guardrail.
Obviously. from the standpoint of a passenger who gets speared and is catastrophically injured or killed it’s clearly not their fault even if their driver may have made an error causing them to go a foot or two outside of the travel lane.
This manufacturing defect and safety hazard is well known to industry. The idea of dangerous guardrails in Virginia is a truly terrifying one. Some companies have made a ton of money selling these guardrails to Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and other state highway systems across the country. With a relatively small fix, serious injuries like quadriplegia can be avoided. The simple safety analysis for engineers goes like this:
- Avoid the hazard entirely if that can be done;
- Lessen the risk of serious harm if there’s a fix; and
- Warn about a risk which can’t be either removed or remedied.
Guardrails may be a necessary part of the highway system and they can’t be avoided entirely. However, then the second level of analysis is to try to lessen the risk of harm by fixing the hazard with breakaway or angled beginnings of the guardrail.
In 2016, Virginia revealed it would no longer be using the X-LITE guardrail. However, concerns linger that dangerous guardrails may be out there on the side of the highways and barriers meant to protect drivers may be deadly weapons.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a dangerous guardrail or another piece of equipment, please call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at (757) 455-0077.