Colorado transportation officials have ordered the immediate inspection of 42,000 guardrails installed along highways throughout the state following a televised report that some of the safety devices can fail to perform properly in a collision because they have been erroneously assembled.
According to ABC Channel 7 News Denver, a local television report on a June crash in Johnston, Colo., involving a driver who was seriously injured in a guardrail collision ignited enough concern at the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) that regulators issued a mandate for all guardrails to be inspected.
“Guardrails are designed to stop and deflect a vehicle,” CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt told Denver’s ABC Channel 7 News. “In the case of Ms. (Kristen) Gerhard, the guardrail, instead of diverting and deflecting, actually penetrated the cabin and caused her significant injury.”
Mr. Bhatt explained that the guardrail was originally installed properly, but it had subsequently taken a hit and had to be repaired, and that’s where the problem started.
Colorado uses four different types of guardrail models, Mr. Bhatt explained. Previously, whenever a guardrail was damaged by a collision, work crews replaced the damaged section with any end terminal that fit, believing the parts to be interchangeable when they weren’t.
“When (the guardrail near Johnstown) was struck in 2014, our crews went out there and kept the end cap, but put a Trinity guardrail in place,” Mr. Bhatt told Channel 7. “So those two pieces fit together… but they do not actually function in a crash the way they are supposed to.”
CDOT has inspected half of the state’s guardrail systems so far and found 144 sections that were improperly repaired.
Going forward, CDOT is developing a system to keep track of guardrail installations and repairs in a database and using numbers, pictures, and color codes to prevent mismatching end terminals and rails. CDOT hopes these changes can help other states that are making the same guardrail mistakes.
According to CDOT data, there are approximately 120,000 traffic crashes in Colorado each year with about 1,500 of them involving guardrails.
Source: ABC Channel 7 News, Denver