Florida has about four times more of the controversial four-inch guardrail end terminals installed across the state than the allegedly safer five-inch guardrail systems, according to an audit conducted by the Florida Department of Transportation.
The ET-Plus guardrail was originally designed to have a head with a five-inches width, but a change in design done by the Dallas-based Trinity in 2005 changed the width of the head to four inches. Critics say the four-inch guardrail system is more likely to pierce a car on impact than peel away from the vehicle like a ribbon, as intended.
According to FDOT, the Sunshine state has a total of 1,678 (four-inch) guardrail systems installed throughout the state. By contrast, the state has 377 (five-inch) guardrail terminals.
Last year, the agency conducted an inventory of the Trinity ET-Plus guardrails installed in Florida after a federal jury found Trinity liable for defrauding the government by not disclosing design changes to the product.
FDOT workers visited counties from each district and counted ET-Plus guardrails manually, according to Dick Kane, a spokesperson for the agency.
District 4, which includes Broward, Indian River, Martin, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties, has 450 of the guardrail systems, the largest number documented thus far, according to data provided by FDOT.
District 2 – Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Madison, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns, Suwannee, Taylor and Union counties – ranked second with a total of 238 guardrails.
Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, the only two counties that make District 6, followed with a total of 234 guardrails.
More than 40 states, including Florida, have suspended Trinity’s ET-Plus guardrails installation because of safety concerns. Federal officials estimate that more than 200,000 of the altered ET-Plus guardrails have been installed across the country.
Last fall, the Federal Highway Administration ordered a series of crash tests after a federal whistle-blower case found that Trinity had defrauded the government.
Meanwhile, an array of lawsuits filed by victims and their relatives allege the change in dimensions has made the guardrails unsafe, resulting in serious injuries and deaths.
To see how many of the four-inch guardrails are currently installed in your area, click on the map below.