GDOT to stop installing guardrail brand after investigation

The Georgia Department of Transportation will stop installing a brand of highway guardrail ends following a Channel 2 Action News investigation into the crashes and deaths linked to them.

GDOT officials Wednesday announced they will not install any more ET-Plus ends until new crash tests prove that they are safe. The device is designed to slow a vehicle by absorbing the energy from an impact and ejecting the rail to the side away from the car. But experts say it malfunctions during crashes and sends the guardrail shooting through cars like a spear.

The guardrail end in Jeff Warford Jr.’s crash was an ET-Plus. He was a passenger in a car that hit the end of a guardrail on Interstate 285. The car was untouched where he was sitting, but records show the rail penetrated the rear door, cut across the passenger compartment and hit him in the back of the head, Channel 2 reported.

“From what the coroner and everybody was telling me, he died instantly,” his father, Jeffrey Warford, told the news station. “My son meant the world to me. It’s just not an easy thing because every day you think about it.”

Channel 2’s investigation also discovered that the state’s highways still have a type of guardrail feature federal officials recommended removal of back in 1998. But the feds stopped short of requiring states to immediately remove all breakaway cable terminals, or BCTs, which cover the sharp end of the guardrail and are supposed to steer vehicles away. Experts deemed the devices dangerous due to being “too stiff” to protect drivers.

Georgia Department of Transportation Director Keith Golden said he couldn’t give an exact number of how many BCTs were on the state’s roads. He admitted that his department keeps no records of which type of guardrail ends are in use and their locations.

“I would say there are very few, there may be a few out there they’ve been missed, but I would venture to say most of them have been caught and repaired,” Golden said.

Channel 2 discovered more than 300 BCTs in use all over the state, including some near guardrails that were recently replaced, as well as some where a fresh asphalt project just finished.

For much more on Channel 2’s investigation into guardrails, visit WSBTV.com.

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